Category Archives: Herbalism

Make Hydrosol the Simplers Herbalist Way

Sunday - 17 January 2016

Simplers Distillation to Create a Quick and Easy Hydrosol

There are times I just want to spray a delectable floral, spice, herb, or other botanical water on my face or body. The well-known botanical waters, rose or orange blossom, are also known as hydrolats, distillate waters, or hydrosols. I’ll call them hydrosols for this article, because that is perhaps the best-known name for them.

What’s the difference between Hydrosols and Simply Boiling the Botanical?

When you boil a botanical, whether it’s a rose or oolong tea, you are making an infusion. All of the properties of the botanical are being drawn out into the hot water, and you can drink it ‘as is’. When you make a hydrosol, many of the chemical properties of the botanical are left in the water in the bottom of the pot, as in making tea. It’s the volatile, scented properties of the botanical that rise with the steam, condense on the iced top of the container (more about that below) and drip down into a container that will collect the hydrosol.

Hydrosol is much more concentrated than the tea, and should always be diluted before using it in food or drink. However, if you’re like me, you make it mostly for spraying on the body or hair, or for splashing on the face, like a toner.

Why Make Hydrosols?

Why hydrosol? Besides the health benefits of using a botanical with beneficial chemical components, maybe I just want to capture the ethereal citrusy scent of a rare lemongrass (C. flexuosus) from my garden. It’s sweeter and lighter than the bulbous “regular” lemongrass we all know from Asian recipes, and I find it very refreshing. Maybe I only have a few dozen golden campaca flowers, or a few handfuls of ylang ylang, in all their rare and glorious sensual beauty. Let’s not forget the lemon leaves, rosemary, lime leaves, patchouli, pineapple sage and other fragrant beauties I have in my garden — the list is long, and I love them all!

Some ideas for a simplers' hydrosol - lilies, rose geranium, citrus rinds, leaves, or flowers, dried patchouli or other herbs or teas - etc., etc.

Some ideas for a simplers’ hydrosol – lilies, rose geranium, citrus rinds, leaves, or flowers, dried patchouli or other herbs or teas – etc., etc.

I have several distillation devices: a 2 Liter glass hydrodistillation unit from Heart Magic, and a gorgeous piece of art in the form of a 20 Liter copper hydro- or steam- distillation unit from The Essential Oil company. Due to their small size, I mostly get hydrosol, and a little bit of essential oil. Using them, I get anywhere from a pint to three liters or so of hydrosol. These units are great for production, but sometimes when I just want a quick hydrosol, I don’t set up the formal distillation units. Instead, I use a method that was probably used thousands of years ago, and is still efficient and productive today.

I call it a simplers’ distillation, paying homage to the ancient simplers’ method of herbal tincturing and infusion. The simplers’ way means nothing is measured, and the botanical is simply covered by the menstruum – water, in this case – and the process is adapted for a stovetop or campfire.

Our ancestors in northern climates probably used cold water from a stream or well, but since Miami’s tap water (which I filter) rarely goes lower than 78F, I have to resort to using ice to facilitate the necessary condensation. This condensation of the rising steam is what chills the steam and allows the scented hydrosol to fall into the bowl for collections.

simplers hydrosol pot with bowl lid and steam small_opt

Inverted glass lid with metal handle (all non-reactive materials) showing steam starting to materialize after a few minutes of water and rosemary in pot being heated.After steam appears, place a ziplock bag filled with ice on the lid. You will have to replace with a new bag with ice several times during distillation. They can be refrozen and reused over and over.

After steam appears, place a ziplock bag filled with ice on the lid. You will have to replace with a new bag with ice several times during distillation. They can be refrozen and reused over and over.

This method is easy any season of the year, anywhere you live, and with any fragrant botanical you have on hand, which can be from your garden, the grocery, or even dried – dried rose petals work well with this method, as do many other dried botanicals.

Equipment needed:

All of the equipment needs to be made of non-reactive material, such as stainless steel, enamel, or pyrex.

– A large pot or saucepan
– A lid with a slight dome, no flat lids. Turn the lid upside down, so the hydrosol will drop down into the bowl.
– A platform to elevate the bowl. It should be as small as possible to do the job, because the area around it needs to be sufficiently generous to hold as much plant material as possible. I use an upside-down custard cup aka a ramekin, with a flat bottom
– Plant material: fresh is best, but you can experiment with flowers, seeds, bark, roots and other materials that are dried.
– Filtered water
– Appropriate size ziplock plastic bag to fit onto the lid. I use one gallon bags.
– Ice to fill the plastic bag. You may need to refill the bag several times as the ice melts, so have a backup supply of ice. After the distillation is completed, I let the melted ice in the bag refreeze by placing the bag inside the lid and placing it in the freezer. That way, the bag is conformed to the lid, and in a solid chunk, which slows down the melting time for the next distillation.
– Sterile container for the finished hydrosol. Directions on how to sterilize the container are detailed below.

Directions

1. Place the pot or saucepan on the heat source
2. Place the platform to elevate the bowl in the bottom of the pot, centered.
3. Place the plant material around the platform, up to the top of the platform. Pack the plant material to fit as much as possible in the space.
4. Pour in enough water to cover the plant material.
5. Place the bowl on the platform
6. Place the lid on the pot, inverted, so that the dome faces down, to allow the steam to drip into the bowl. The hydrosol will drip from the handle into the bowl
7. Turn on the heat to high, and when the water begins to boil, turn it down to medium and place a bag of ice on the lid.
8. Maintain an even temperature for the heat, and replace the bag of ice as needed with a fresh bag of ice.
9. The distillation is finished when the plant material looks “spent”, or you detect an odor that indicates no more fragrant molecules are being extracted.
10. Lift the bag of ice from the lid
11. Do not open the lid. Allow the pot and contents to cool down to room temperature.
12. Remove the lid and pour the contents of the bowl into a sterile container and secure a lid on the container.
13. Label the container with date, plant material, and method used.
14. Store in a cool place, out of sunlight.

Sterilizing The Hydrosol Container

There are several methods that you can choose from to sterilize the container you use for storing the hydrosol, whether it is a jar or bottle. Of course, glass is the best choice, due to its non-reactive properties, and a tight fitting cap is necessary, as a cork will allow microbes to migrate into the container.

1. While the hydrosol is cooking on the stove, place your container and its lid into a separate pan and gently boil for at least twenty minutes. Carefully remove the container and lid with tongs, and place them upside down on a clean towel. Allow them to cool. You may also boil a pyrex or stainless steel funnel at this time if you wish to use it for transferring the hydrosol to the container.

2. Use an alcohol wash of the container and lid and funnel (optional) by diluting 190 proof undenatured alcohol to 170 proof and washing the inside of the container and the lid and funnel with it.

3. I use a UV light box, such as the ones used by tattoo artists and cosmeticians. I place the container and funnel on the top shelf, and the cap on the bottom, facing upwards, so the UV light can reach the inside of it. Put the UV machine on for 15 minutes to sterilize.

 

Quick and easy way to sterilize materials with UV light.

Quick and easy way to sterilize materials with UV light.

Refreshing rosemary simplers' hydrosol made with fresh rosemary from my garden. Note the bottle and cap from the UV sterilization unit.

Refreshing rosemary simplers’ hydrosol made with fresh rosemary from my garden. Note the bottle and cap from the UV sterilization unit.

My photos don’t do the process justice. The first link is a good documentation of the process. The author uses dried elderflowers.

http://ourheritageofhealth.com/elderflower-water-a-homemade-hydrosol/

This video is a great tutorial on simplers’ hydrosol making. She uses fresh rose petals, so it’s a great visual. My instructions and preferences differ a bit from hers: I like a glass lid so I can observe the process, and I think it’s a lot more convenient to place the ice cubes in a plastic bag. Also, as noted above, I’m very strict about sterilization. Hydrosols can grow microbes very quickly if not transferred into sterile containers with sterile lids.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8Vnv4gTeTv8

Combo hydrosols

Experiment and find some combinations of plant materials that you like. Mint, rosemary, and bay leaf. Rose and jasmine – yum! Patchouli and cedar wood shavings. Citrus and ambrette seeds. Have fun!

Distilling Cornutia grandifolia for perfume and health

Thursday - 29 October 2015

I’ve long been obsessed with a tropical member of the Mint family Labiatae and focused on obtaining some plants of it to grow in my fragrant garden. They were harder to find than I imagined, but I got two in small pots about a year and a half ago. You can read more about them here.

These plants are as aggressive in their growth habit as mints; instead of growing horizontally via runners, they grow vertically, leaping skyward at an astonishing rate. I don’t fertilize them, and they don’t have any pests or diseases. On a sunny Sunday in Miami, Angie and Julia showed up to harvest them and we worked together on the distillation of the big, soft, velvety, fragrant leaves. The leaves smell like a combination of balsam, tobacco, mint, and sweetness.

Angie and Julia harvesting the Cornutia grandifolia leaves

Angie and Julia harvesting the Cornutia grandifolia leaves

This photo gives you a sense of the size of the leaves: “grandifolia” for sure. Some are as big as your head, most will cover your hand, even with fingers outstretched.

Julia harvesting cornutia

Julia harvesting cornutia; a context shot to show the size of the leaves, and the height of the plant

Here’s a shot of a leaf covering my hand:

Cornutia leaf covering my hand - with Lulu looking on

Cornutia leaf covering my hand – with Lulu looking on

Once the branches were harvested, they were brought immediately inside, and the leaves were stripped off of them, and torn into pieces. From harvest to distillation pot, approximately a half hour. Cornutia is amazing: no insects, no diseases, very healthy foliage. We did find one ladybug who hitched a ride inside!

Angie and Julia starting to process the leaves for the distillation pot. It soon got serious and focused, with the three of us around the table. We then weighed the leaves, and got over four pounds for the hydro pot and the steam column.

Angie and Julia starting to process the leaves for the distillation pot. It soon got serious and focused, with the three of us around the table. We then weighed the leaves, and got over four pounds for the hydro pot and the steam column.

Angie kept meticulous records throughout, and she is still refining the record sheet to adjust it as we learn more of the process.

So the retort (hydrodistillation pot) and the steam column were packed, and we used Ann Barker Harmon’s book Harvest to Hydrosol as a guide, finding the ratios of water to plant material very helpful.

The beautiful 20L copper alembic is from The Essential Oil Company, and is adaptable for either hydrosol or essential oil production. It’s the minimum size required for essential oil, as the yields of that are typically very low, so you need a critical mass of plant material to get some. We were happy to get hydrosol, because distillate waters have a beauty and magic all their own, and we wanted to explore this rare plant’s hydrosol.

There is an overuse of the sealing tape, because we're beginners and were nervous about steam escaping, but we're pretty happy about the set up for the distillation itself, and have captioned it to help convey the logistics of the process.

There is an overuse of the sealing tape, because we’re beginners and were nervous about steam escaping, but we’re pretty happy about the set up for the distillation itself, and have captioned it to help convey the logistics of the process. One correction: the arrow for “warm water out” should be pointing in the opposite direction of the “cold water in” arrow. It flows from the top of the condenser back to the ice chest where it is cooled again.

We were so excited when the hydrosol started dripping into the jar, I had to remove the sound from the video! 🙂 Anyway, this may be the first-ever video of Cornutia grandifolia being distilled in the USA.

This is my first attempt to embed a youtube video into a blog post, I hope it works.

The first part of a hydrosol that appears is called the “head”, and it is typically very beautiful, sweet, perhaps full of esters. Not only did the Cornutia fill that description, it was the palest of silvery blue. I was wondering if it might contain chamazulene, the antiinflammatory agent in Roman Chamomile. The undersides of the leaves are silvery, and maybe the blue is present because of the blue flowers – which we did not distill, but might be present in other parts of the plant. After I posted about this on Jeanne Rose’s Hydrosols group on Facebook, she informed us that the flowers are mixed with lime(stone?) in France to make a blue ink.

Here is a photo of the “head” hydrosol:

The "head of the hydrsol captures the sweetest, prettiest notes. We got about 16 ounces.

The “head of the hydrsol captures the sweetest, prettiest notes.

We then switched to another sterile jar, and go the “body” of the hydrosol, and all the time, including while the “head” was processing, we were chatting about the scents we were observing coming from the still. Artichoke, ghee, floral, tobacco, mint were the first observations. Then in the “body” the artichoke receded a bit, and a balsam scent came through. I think we were a little perplexed, because we had never smelled anything like this before. We all agreed that the fragrance was strong, and an analogy could be made that it was a big and powerful looking as the plant and leaves.

I feel the hydrosol could be used in perfume, a tiny bit added to round out and give a complex, beautiful note.

When we detected that the scent coming out of the distillation was going flat, we knew we had reached the “tail” or end of the great-smelling distillate.The hydrosol was now finished, so we turned off the gas, capped the jar, and began the process of disassembling and cleaning the still – no easy task! Angie and Julia were so helpful, I can’t thank them enough.

Here is what the spent Cornutia leaves from the retort pot looked like when we took the column off:

The spent Cornutia leaves after the distillation is over. Looking down into the retort pot. We were surprised at the green leaves that survived the heat.

The spent Cornutia leaves after the distillation is over. Looking down into the retort pot. We were surprised at the green leaves that survived the heat.

Ann Harman’s book has instructions for evaluating the marc, how to examine the texture and look of the plant material, and despite the few odd green leaves, the marc fit the description of what it should look and feel like. You also have to examine the marc in the column, the part that was steam distilled. There were no dry spots, no areas where the steam did not pass through, so we felt pretty good about the project.

We now have almost two liters of “body” hydrosol distillate, and slightly less than one pint of “head”. We all took samples of the “body” to evaluate as it slightly aged. Over the course of this week, the artichoke has disappeared, and some sage notes, and then black tea notes (it even smells like sweetened iced tea!) have emerged along with floral, balsam, and others that are hard to define. No, no essential oil. Perhaps like the other Mint family plant that yields *very* little essential oil – Lemon Balm – this plant is to be prized for its hydrosol. What are the medicinal properties? Good question.

Angie Gonzales is an Ayurvedic practitioner and she will be delving into the large body of Spanish language written materials on this plant . It’s an ancient, powerful medicinal plant, and there have been a number of studies done on its medicinal properties in Central and South America. Since it was used by the Mayans, and Angie is from Mexico, she feels a special affinity for it. We will be reporting more on this wonderful plant in the future. Subscribe to this blog to be informed when we update it regarding Cornutia.

the longest comfrey root I've ever seen, held by Paula Diaz

Is This the Longest Comfrey Root, or What?

Friday - 18 July 2014

I planted a tiny root cutting of comfrey (Symphytum officinale) in 1994, in a prime spot in my front garden. I love this plant so much. I first read about it in Jeanne Rose’s Herbs and Things book twenty years before. Comfrey has recently been a conversational subject that has connected me with the South Florida herbal community, with a foodie/herbal friend who is writing a book on culinary and healing herbs, and today, maybe a fun fact. Is the root that my apprentice Paula Diaz harvested for me the longest darn comfrey root ever?! Click the image below, if needed, for viewing details. One site says that the roots can go down ten feet, another says lateral roots can grow to three feet. Confirmed? Or just info copied from books and repeated. Does anyone have any proof with photos? I spent a lot of time googling about comfrey roots and length, and didn’t find one photo of any longer.

24"/62cm comfrey room is the longest I've ever seen

I’ve never seen one longer, and I’ve grown comfrey since the 70s. Click image to enlarge for detail.

My connection with comfrey and local folks started a few years ago when I found out local herbalist Julia Onnie-Hay was conducting a comfrey salve workshop at Earth N Us farm near my house. I met her, and had so much fun connecting with someone over this powerful plant. I don’t harvest the comfrey leaves of my plant often for frequent healing purposes because when it’s grown in the tropics, far from its native steppes, it can develop an overabundance of alkaloid that can harm the liver – hepatotoxic pyrrolizidine alkaloids (PAs). So, I purchase it from northern growers for poultices, teas, etc.

So, last week I called local writer, food maven and dear friend Ellen Kanner when I needed to take a break from writing my book Perfume From Your Garden, because I knew she could offer sympathy at how isolating and time demanding book writing can be. (Her award-winning Feeding the Hungry Ghost: Life, Faith, and What to Eat for Dinner made her hole up for months at her keyboard, and I was now at the “been hold up too long phase” and gave her a call. She quickly told me she was working on a new book proposal, and said it would involve herbs. Which one are you working on now, I asked? “Comfrey”, she said. I couldn’t believe it. Comfrey is rare in South Florida, and hearing her say that was her research subject right now surprised me.

So I began to tell her how I have loved it for forty years, and I have a twenty-year-old one in my front garden, and would she like a cutting? That brings us to the freaking longest comfrey root I’ve ever seen. I mentioned how I haven’t really harvested that plant because of the alkaloids. I’ve harvested some leaves over the years for a quick poultice, but that’s it. I’ve never harvested the root at all. I remember telling Paula, jokingly, that the leaves never seem to die back, maybe they’re all twenty years old. We had a giggle over that, the never-aging comfrey leaves.

So, today Paula and I went out to harvest the root. She had her gloves on, and gently worked the soil, quietly bent over, feeling around, and within five minutes pulled out this huge beauty of a root. Paula is an herbalist, and grows a lot of comfrey, so she’s aware of the typical roots, too. It took it a while for it to sink in, and we couldn’t find evidence of such a root length anywhere. Anyway, to sum it up: comfrey rules, and I love it, and I’m very happy with this gorgeous root.

the longest comfrey root I've ever seen, held by Paula Diaz

Herbalist Paula Diaz with amazing comfrey roo

The Healthy Benefits of Natural Perfumery

Thursday - 8 May 2014

Working with, or wearing natural essences is a healthy choice. Want to study this healthful art? http://PerfumeClasses.com

Working with, or wearing natural essences is a healthy choice. Want to study this healthful art? http://PerfumeClasses.com

I haven’t had a cold or flu since I was 20 years old. For the previous five years, I had been using essential oils and fresh herbs on a daily basis. Oils to anoint and herbs for food and sometimes medicinal purposes. I remember being shocked to read that one tablespoon of parsley would supply the daily requirement for Vitamin A. The oils supplied my daily need for beauty and the other world of natural fragrance that I adored. Of course, the health benefits of herbs and fragrant plants have been known for thousands of years, and the first healers were also perfumers, adept in the arts of incense and fragrant oils. The last century saw the art of aromatherapy introduced to the modern world, a systematic approach to using essential oils for healing. But rarely have perfume journals, the professional publications of the perfume industry, addressed the healing and prophylactic power of natural aromatics.

So, Were The Workers in Perfume Supply Houses Protected From the 1918 Influenza Epidemic?

So imagine my surprise when I found this, buried in a vintage journal I came across while doing some research (you may need to click on the scanned image to read it):

The health benefits of pure, natural aromatics was recognized in a roundabout way in 1921

The health benefits of pure, natural aromatics was recognized in a roundabout way in 1921

Those workers were extracting only 100% natural materials: rose, basil, jasmine, cardamom, vetiver, etc. They were benefiting from the protective (prophylactic) benefits of the volatile essences of these plants!

There are many new, independent perfumers using either 100% naturals, like myself, and others who use mostly naturals and some synthetics. I have found the indies use much less synthetics than the “big houses”, so maybe they’re more in line with the perfumers of the 1920s. That is, perhaps they can, and their customers can, benefit from the naturals they use in high percentage. Most, if not all, of the naturals used in perfumery have been used, at least in the form of raw plant materials, or infused oils, as medicine by the indigenous peoples of the world. To continue the tradition of using plants for healing, and beauty, is to continue the tradition of looking to our environment’s beneficial offerings.

My perfumery course is something I am most proud about in my professional life. Yes, I’ve made award-winning perfumes; yes, I’ve nurtured hundreds, if not thousands of aspiring perfumers in the Yahoo group; yes, I practice organic gardening and love to extract the fragrance from the plants in my garden – but teaching professional, modern ways to work the beautiful, healthy essences into natural perfumes is what I love the most. Do you want to take my course? Email me, let’s chat.

Considering Illustrations Like These for Perfume From Your Garden book

Friday - 16 August 2013

When Elise and I sat down to discuss the options for the illustrations for our upcoming book Perfume From Your Garden, color photos were considered, but the ability to get similar lighting and composition for them ruled them out.  Maybe in the future, but our timeline for a publication date of late Fall (Nov 8 is target date) means we can’t get them together by then.  I told Elise of some drawings that I had traced out of an herb book in 1983 or so. The doctor’s wife loved the illustrations in the book, and asked I used them for this drawing, as it was going to be hung on the wall in the office. So, I used them for a private, not-for-publication illustration for a doctor’s office.  At the time I was in grad school for landscape architecture, but had a landscape and interiorscape business on the side (a catering business, too!).

Well, trying to find the drawing, below, was a week of frustrating and increasingly sad time spent on the task, because not only couldn’t I find the drawing, I couldn’t find the original book.  I believe the book was on herbs of the south.  I had been collecting and studying herb books since the early 70s, and I remembered that it may have been in with some books that mildewed and was trashed.

Finally, going through the folders of hundreds of drawing I did as part of my grad degree and later career as a landscape architect and urban designer, I found this one drawing sandwiched in between all the off-topic drawings. Talk about happy!

Elise likes it too, and it closely matched the drawing I had sketched out for her quickly when I first mentioned the aesthetic.  I remembered the oval as having two lines, and being longer than wide, a bit more portrait style.

What do you think of this aesthetic? I’d love your opinion.  Elise is going to start work on these for all the plants in our book, from frangipani to rose to lemongrass and about fifty other scented beauties.  Let me know and let us know if you have any suggestions. Thanks!

PS: don’t forget to stop by http://perfumefromyourgarden.com and sign up for our newsletter.  There will be giveaways of the book for randomly-selected subscribers.

oval herb drawing

Ask the Perfumer 6/16/2013 Rosemary is for Remembrance

Sunday - 16 June 2013

Happy Father’s Day and by the serendipity of a delivery of numerous rosemary plants this week, I want to tie today in with the legendary significance of the meaning of rosemary: remembrance.  Rosemary for rememberance

There’s rosemary, that’s for remembrance; pray you, love,
remember. And there is pansies, that’s for thoughts.
-William Shakespeare (Hamlet, Act 4, Scene 5)

“As for rosemary, I let it run all over my garden walls, not only because my bees love it but because it is the herb sacred to remembrance and to friendship, whence a sprig of it hath a dumb language.”
– Sir Thomas More (1478-1535) British writer, statesman and philosopher

So today, as we remember our fathers, or, perhaps, as we may like to start a tradition, use some rosemary in a meal we cook for our dads, or search out an aftershave or cologne that contains rosemary.  To bring the blog back to the subject of perfumery, rosemary, which is an aromatic, herbaceous, somewhat camphorous scent, is more often used in men’s fragrances than womens.

More for culinary and aesthetic reasons, I’ve decided to start a rosemary garden under a portion of one of my heritage oak trees. Here’s what I got:

Three Rosemary officinalis

Two R. officinalis var. Tuscan Blue

One each: R. officinalis var. Severn Seas (not a typo, not Seven), Majorca Pink (flowers), Alba (white flowers), Barbeque (stiff stems for skewering food for the barbeque) and Gorizia.  I had to restrain myself from the heady list of other rosemarys at http://companionplants.com because I was looking for leaf and flower differences.  I stayed away from the prostate varieties, looking for height, but if you have a slope in your garden, or a rock garden, the prostate varieties will suit you.  I’ve been buying from Companion Plants for years, and they have great stock, very, very tempting stock, so be prepared 😉

I’ll be here until 10 PM ET USA today to answer your perfumery questions.  If you post after that time, I don’t monitor late posts, so you won’t get an answer.  Try again next week, and I’ll be sure to answer your question.

Take care and have a lovely Father’s day.

Ask the Perfumer 5/12/2013 – Mothers, Herbs and of course, Fragrance

Sunday - 12 May 2013

Happy Mother’s Day, everyone!  I offer that greeting to all females, because we are blessed with the mothering ‘gene’ from the earliest age, so I honor every female on this day.  Today I’m going a little off-topic, and honoring a plant that I regard as the most mothering, comforting, healing plant: comfrey, aka Symphytum officinale in the botanical world.  Please feel free to ask your perfumery questions, that’s the purpose of this forum, and I’d love you to take you on a little side trip to my other love, herbalism (and aromatherapy, too).

A comfrey salve recipe from http://valwebb.wordpress.com/2007/09/09/garden-journal-comfrey/

Click to enlarge: A comfrey salve recipe from http://valwebb.wordpress.com/2007/09/09/garden-journal-comfrey/ 

I started to reconnect with comfrey and my decades of herbal study a few weeks ago when I attended a comfrey salve workshop at the local urban farm Earth N Us given by Julia Onnie-Hay of Bless Botanicals.  I went home with a jar of salve we made that day, and it came in handy yesterday.  Let me give a little backstory.

My intuition told me it was time to reconnect with herbalists, they’re always lovely people, and I felt I had neglected my herbalism for too long.  Then, Julia’s workshop popped up, and I loved it. Well, yesterday, against my inner voice, I decided to go to several yard sales.  It was hot, steamy, and despite my inner voice, I went. And I fell, and hurt both knees and sprained a big toe.  My knees started swelling before I made it back to my car.  At home, I immediately started putting Julia’s salve on my injured parts, and also some of a great herbal/aromatherapy pain relief oil I make.

I did the RICE routine without the C (compression): rest, ice and elevation. Started around noon, kept it up until bedtime. I dug out some dried comfrey root pieces from my apothecary stash, poured hot water over them, blended them, and started to make poultices.  Luckily, I had a lot of 4×4″ gauze bandages left from when my mother was living with me (mothers day bonus!) and gauze tape, and I rubbed some salve on, sprinkled some of my pain relief oil on the root smush on the gauze pads, and taped them on.  Hobbled back and forth to the freezer for the ice packs, and just chilled, thinking about the lessons in listening to “inner voices” can bring.

I don’t regret the fall: it taught me a big lesson!  I’ve been soured on garage sales for some time, and this was a bit NO! against me going to any more.  Don’t ask me why I’ve soured.  Maybe it’ll protect me in the future from bringing home a desk infested with termites, which happened once.  I truly have not found any treasures at them, so they’re in my past now. For sure.

What’s really in my future now is a return to my herbal roots (pun intended!).  I have to give thanks to Jeanne Rose, author of Herbs and Things (among many other books on healing) for first turning me on to comfrey in 1975.  It was her enthusiastic sharing of information and stories that first made me love that plant. Time advances to 2013 and a new herbalist, a young master of the flowers, leaves and roots enters my life: I loved how Julia called the comfrey plants “her” at the workshop, and reminded us to ask “her” for permission to harvest some leaves.  Women helping and educating women about herbs – a perfect theme for Mother’s Day!

Everyone who’s had a bad fall knows that the pain and stiffness are far worse the next day, and pretty bad for days afterwards. When I’ve fallen in the past few yeas, I’ve used my oil, and RICE, but never had the results I had today.  Before I got out of bed today, I realized, upon flexing my knees and big toe, that 90% of the pain was gone!  Yes, my knees are stiff, but the pain is negligible.  My toe started to hurt a big when I walked around doing morning stuff, so I’m still going to rest today, but know that my knees are not swollen, my toe is no longer swollen and discolored, and I’m as happy as can be.  Lessons learned, old ways revived, and a great relaxed feeling. Happy Mother’s Day everyone!