Sunday, December 28, 2008

Elderberry Syrup for Colds/Flu

Since I am spending today sick with a cold I thought I'd share with you my recipe for Elderberry syrup; a must for cold and flu relief.

1 cup elderberries (I made this at summer's end so used fresh elderberries, but you could use dried elderberries if you add a bit more water)
1 1/2 cup water
1/2 cup sugar (or substitute honey)
Simmer for about an hour with a lid on to prevent evaporation.
Strain the mixture to remove seeds. This can be done a number of ways, I used a food mill, like the kind you would use for applesauce. This has a blade that circles around forcing small particles through pores in the bottom while keeping seeds and skins above.
Pour juice into a pint jar, add 1 tablespoon lemon juice and one ounce of vodka. Put the lid on the syrup and refrigerate until needed.

This syrup is a very delicious way to enjoy the benefits of elderberries. It can be used as a cough syrup or throat soother. Elderberry has been used by many people for some time to treat colds and flu. Medical research has documented that elderberry (Sambucus) will decrease the duration and severity of the flu (J Int Med Res. 2004 Mar-Apr;32(2):132-40). Elderberry will both stimulate the human immune system and inhibit neuraminidase, an enzyme used by the influenza virus to enter and infect human cells. These actions combined put it high on my list of herbs to have on hand for winter health.

Another thing I do when I feel a cold coming on is use my product "Thyma-flu". This is a combination of elderberries, thyme, echinacea, peppermint and horehound. I make this as a dried preparation so that you can add your own alcohol to it; vodka, brandy or rum. After setting for 2 weeks so that the herbs infuse into the alcohol I take 1-2 teaspoons of the alcohol 2-3 times a day at the first sign of a cold or flu. If taken soon enough, this will often stop a cold or flu before it gets a hold. You can purchase this mixture on my website at: It is great to have on hand before you need it.

A food mill is a must have tool for an herbalist and one wanting to learn to be self sufficient.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Frankincense Review

I was surprised today to find a medical review of the esteemed Christmas herb, frankincense, in the British Medical Journal (December 17). Not only is it famed for having been one of the gifts of the Magi, but it is an important medicinal herb, incense and perfume ingredient.

As incense it has been used in religious ceremonies by Jews, Greeks, Romans, Arabs and other ancient religions and is still used today in the Catholic Mass. Frankincense, also called olibanum is the gum resin tapped from Boswellia (Boswellia serrata mainly) trees found in Arabia, Africa and India.

Forty seven studies met the criteria for inclusion in this systematic review done by E. Ernst at the Universities of Exeter and Plymouth in the UK. Inclusional studies had applications to asthma, rheumatoid arthritis, Crohn’s disease, osteoarthritis and collagenous colitis. What all these diseases have in common is that they are all related to inflammation. All studies showed clinically positive results leading the authors to conclude that collectively these results are ‘encouraging but not compelling’. They note that not enough of these studies were large, randomized controlled trials.

Frankincense has traditionally been used to treat diseases of inflammation as well as to promote digestion and used as a skin restorative. Active ingredients in frankincense such as alpha and beta boswellic acid have been shown to affect the pro-inflammatory enzymes lipoxygenase and cyclo-oxygenase as well as the compliment pathway. The lipoxygenase enzyme will convert essential fatty acids into leukotrienes which are can contribute to the inflammatory response in a number of ways. Cyclooxygenase (COX) promotes the formation of prostaglandin H2, another inflammation mediator, from arachadonic acid.

So although frankinsence is probably not the fountain of youth as many websites might have you believe, extracts from this resin certainly may play an important role in preventing inflammatory or treating inflammatory diseases.

Ernst, E., Frankincense: systemic review. BMJ 2008;337.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Cold in the Greenhouse

When I got home from a trip Monday night the temperatures were in the negative! The next day I noticed some of my rose geraniums in the greenhouse had gotten nipped by the cold. Mind you, this is not really a greenhouse; it has no temperature controls. It is basically a shed with a brick floor, south facing windows and a large water container inside and my workshop on the other side. I was told by the previous owners that it never froze inside, but temps below zero may have pushed things. One of my rose geraniums is severely drooping right now but I am hopeful that it can recover. You can see another rose geranium looks pretty good as does the rosemary and lemon verbena. The common geranium is also blooming red which is great for the Holidays. I use this greenhouse for overwintering some of my plants and am trying my hand at starting some new plants as well; mint and lavender. I also have a try of mixed lettuces going which I will harvest from soon. Its nice to have fresh greens in the middle of winter for a salad. I am also housing some tender plants from the Herb Society garden. Some of these are not doing too well as I think not enough roots came with them upon transplant. They include stevia, lemon grass, bay, marjoram and a few others. If I remember correctly, the garden cleanup day was a cold and wet one and these were probably dug in haste! But, its always hard to predict Mother Nature and even they may come back.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

What are we doing today?

I have been spending alot of time recently fixing up my workspace and hadn't gotten around to distilling the fennel I had put aside. So, today is fennel distillation. The shop smells wonderfully of anise/fennel. I use fennel distillate/hydrosol in my anti-aging cream that is becoming so popular. Fennel is a perfect herb for dry aging skin and has been long used for that. It is also good for tummy troubles and will freshen any breath. Next on the still will be blue spruce which I use in my hand/body lotion.
Saturday I participated in the Colorado Cupboard's Open House. This Tuesday I will participate in a Holiday open house at Advanced Family Chiropractic owned by Dr. Jessica Thompson. Stop by if you are in Longmont and say hi. The open house starts at 4:00pm.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Crafts and Christmas Presents

Crafts make wonderful presents and show a person that they are worth your time and energy. If you garden there are many gift ideas that come from the garden if you plan ahead. Here are some ideas:

Pressed Flowers - if during the summer you had the foresight to press flowers in a phone book you can now decorate candles or votives with them. Use Modge-Podge to do it as it is very forgiving with using excess. You can also buy small paper boxes at the craft store to decorate and put a treasure inside.

Sachets - you can buy organza sachets inexpensively at craft stores. Use them to fill with dried lavender buds, homemade potpourri or vanilla beans. In fact, anything in an organza bag is beautiful.

Bath Salts - basic bath salts make a very easy and nice gift. To one cup of salt (sea salt, epsom salt or table salt) add 2 tablespoons of baking powder. Now add about 10-20 drops of essential oil to 1 tablespoon of glycerine and mix that into the salt. Put it in a nice jar. This can be used by placing 1-2 tablespoons into the bath or it can be rubbed on the hands to clean them when they are very dirty. Good essential oils to use would be lavender, sweet orange, or peppermint.

If you don't make your own gifts this year, consider buying them from Colorado Aromatics.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Colorado Aromatics

You may have noticed that I begun using the name Colorado Aromatics to brand my skin care products. I think this name better and more completely represents what we do here; growing herbs, extracting herbs, distilling herbs, and making quality personal care products using herbs. This name of course is under the Sagescript Institute name. There will soon be changes in my website to reflect this as well as marketing materials. Under the Sagescript name we will continue doing microbiology assays and education.

On Saturday, Dec 6 from 1-4 I will be participating in the Colorado Cupboard's Holiday open house. I will be showcasing my products there on that day and am very excited about it. If you are near Longmont please do some by to say hi.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Brandied Potatoes Gratin

We've been busy here getting products ready for Christmas so I haven't posted. But on the eve of Thanksgiving I thought I'd let you know one of the recipes we will be making for the big dinner.
We saw this recipe in Sunset Magazine many years ago. Since I always look for sweet potato recipes that avoid all that sugar we gave it a try. It was a big hit and we have made it probably every Thanksgiving for the past 12 years or more.

2 pounds white potatoes cut into thin slices
2 pounds sweet potatoes or yams cut into thin slices
¾ cup vegetable broth
½ pound jack cheese (plus a few slices of smoked gouda0
¼ cup grated parmesan cheese
1/3 cup brandy

Layer white and sweet potato slices and jack cheese (along with
smoked0 in a buttered casserole dish lightly salt and pepper each
layer. Mix hot broth and brandy together and pout over potatoes.
Bake covered at 375 degrees F for 75 minutes ( 1 ¼ hour) or until
potatoes are tender. Uncover, top with grated parmesan, bake until
browned. You can then top with chopped chives from the freezer.

Some of what I am thankful for this year is the opportunity to have a large property that I can care for and help blossom, my husband and sons, my siblings, and herbs.

Happy Thanksgiving.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Hay is for Horses (or is it)

We recently bought and stacked hay for the winter to feed our horse and goats. Its nice that they have enough pasture for their needs in the summer, but at this time of year the grass starts looking bad and soon it will be either covered with snow, or brown. We are lucky to have a hay farmer next door so we don't have to drive far to get hay. We stacked 80 small bales and covered it with a tarp to keep it from getting ruined from rain and snow. I worry that the wind might shred the tarp though.
Since the scent of hay is rather sweet and pleasant I wondered if I could capture it in a tincture. I filled a pint jar with hay and covered that with 70% ethanol (everclear mixed with water). I'll let that set for a few weeks to see if the aroma has gone into the alcohol. It actually smells very nice now after just 2 weeks, so I might do some more. Hay can be made from of many different types of grass as well as alfalfa, all of which affect the scent. The hay we bought is alfalfa grass mix and the grass I think is brome which is common around here. It is also the major type of grass we have in our own pasture. Its nice to still be playing with these plants after summer is over.
I couldn't resist also posting a picture of our mountain view as they start to be covered with snow.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Springtide Anti-Aging Cream

I'm introducing the new anti-aging cream that I have been working on for some time. Now I have a formula that am very happy with. This cream contains natural, botanical, safe, and effective ingredients. Green tea and rosemary extracts are the primary herbs in this cream and give it a beautiful, pale green color. A touch of peppermint essential oil blends well with the scent of rosemary extract and gives the cream a refreshing feel.

Green tea and rosemary can be considered cosmeceuticals because of the active phytochemicals tbey contain. Green tea is a remarkable plant that has a multitude of health benefits. As far as skin benefits, phytochemicals in tea absorb UV light and so decrease the risk of sun damage to the skin. Sun damage includes redness, DNA damage, collagen degradation and formation of free radicals. It has also been found in animal studies to decrease the risk of skin cancer both when applied topically and when taken internally. It appears that besides the catechins found in tea, the caffeine is also important for this activity.

Rosemary extract has anti-cancer activity in animals possibly due to potent anti-oxidant activity. In fact, rosemary extract has been shown to be particularly useful in preventing oxidation of skin lipids that are important for helpin the skin stay moist. This is partially due to its high content of polyphenols (flavonoids) such as carnosic acid, rosmarinic acid, caffeic acid and ursolic acid.

Besides the nourishing vegetable oils and distilled fennel extract in this cream it also contains alpha-lipoic acid and vitamin C ester; both powerful antioxidants. I wish I could bath in it! You can purchase this anti-aging cream now for $11.95 plus postage. The price will go up after the New Year. I am confident you will enjoy using this cream on your face as well as the back of your hands. Oh, I have named this cream 'Springtide' to represent its youthful effect on the skin. email me for ordering information. sagescript@

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Reduce, Reuse, Recycle

Part of being green and sustainable is recycling and reusing. This is being made easier with a variety of websites dedicated to the cause. At Earth 911 you can look up information for your city on what can be recycled and where. In fact, you can put in a specific item you need to get rid of such as used motor oil or electronics and then be directed to a location near you. It also carries news articles related to recycling.

We are probably all aware of thrift stores such as Salvation Army, ARC, and Goodwill as places to find a variety of used household items and clothing. Thrift stores have been around for along time and have provided me with many needed items at a discount price. These organizations are also been a valuable resource when cleaning out my closets and drawers and hopefully my children’s used clothing have benefitted others. I have been on several phone lists for thrift stores that call me about every 6 weeks to see if I have anything to pick up. Its convenient for me and provides an incentive to clean. Find one in your area.

Restore is a store run by Habitat for Humanity and sells (as well as accepts) various household and building items for resell. I have bought many items there for the yard and office including fence posts, office chairs and room dividers. They usually have shelves and shelves of nails and screws as well as paint. Go here to see if there is one in your town:

The Freecycle Network was established to keep things out of the landfill and is an example of one person’s trash can be another person’s treasure. They have more than 4,000 local groups that are run as Yahoo Groups. If one person has something they no longer want and are willing to give it for free to someone else who needs it they can post it on their local Freecycle group for someone else to take. Go here to find a local group:

Craigs list is a site where anyone can post free classified ads. There are sites for over 500 cities. Many things on Craig’s list are free or at least inexpensive. I have used Craig’s list to find inexpensive yard tools and free firewood.

I will post these links and more when I find them on the right border of this website. Let me know if you know of other valuable ones.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Herbs for Halloween - What is in that bubbling cauldron?

I grew the large pumpkin on the right, my neighbor gifted me the one on the left. Notice the small turnip on the left too.

I’ve always liked Halloween. Perhaps it’s because I like being someone I am not or because I am glad for the changing seasons and the tendency towards inward focus. As are most holidays, Halloween involves a blend of Christian and Pagan rituals. The Christian holiday is All Saints Day and All Souls Day when Christians celebrate and honor their dead. The Pagan holiday is Samhain or the Celtic Feast of the Dead and the Celtic new year. On Halloween night it is said the veil between the worlds of the living and dead is lifted and spirits are able to visit the earth. Because of this inherent danger many rituals have developed to protect oneself from any spirit that may mean harm. The foremost ritual being wearing a costume or camouflage of sorts so as to not be recognized.

My favorite herb of Halloween is Calendula or Mary’s Gold used to honor the Virgin Mary. It is a protective herb and is used in the Mexican tradition of Dia de los Muertos. Calendula with its bright, sunny appearance is placed either on a home altar or at the cemetery to help a deceased loved one find their way to living family members. Calendula also symbolizes grief that we may feel. Since Calendula is not native to Mexico, it is likely one of the Tagetes species was traditionally used as ‘marigold’.

Apples symbolize Halloween as they ripen this time of year. They are a symbol of love and fertility. It is said that the first girl to be able to bite an apple while bobbing would marry during the coming year.

Pumpkin is probably the most used symbol of Halloween. Although there are many stories about the jack-o’lantern the one I like goes like this:

Jack was a stingy, greedy man who was also fond of playing tricks on the devil. The devil’s revenge was to condemn Jack to walk the earth with only a lantern for light until Judgment day. In Ireland this lantern was made in a turnip, but the tradition changed to a pumpkin in the US because their larger size was more desirable. I grew turnips this year and might give the turnip lantern a try.

Many of the herbs were used during the Halloween season in the Middle Ages for protection and to cast away evil spirits. Among these are:
• Juniper which can be laid at the front door to deter witches and bad spirits.
• Rue, once called the “herb of grace of Sundays” was hung from doorways to ward off witches and spells. It was also used as protection from the plague during the Middle Ages. Branches of rue were sometimes used to sprinkle holy water in the Catholic Mass, now pine branch is the preferred method.
• St. John’s wort was hung at windows to keep evil spirits from entering the house.
• Rosemary, so called because it is the “Rose of Mary” was put over the cradle of babies for protection as well as under pillows.

Belladonna (Atropa belladonna) was said to be used as a ‘flying ointment’ by some. An extract of this herb absorbed through the skin gave the user a feeling of flying or astral projection. This herb however can be deadly and should not be used.

My Halloweens of the past 17 years have consisted of trick or treating with my children. I love trick or treating as it seems a good 'neighborhood' ritual; time to check in with neighbors for a short chat before everyone closes themselves in for the winter. I also typically have a fire in the grill and let the kids cook hot dogs (veggie dogs) over the fire. This is reminiscent of the ancient Celtic bonfires.
This may be the last year for trick or treat as my children are older so new traditions may arise next year; but bonfires are always fun!
Have a happy and safe Halloween.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Thyme Infused Honey

This time of year I am trying to get together the herb concoctions we need to treat various winter illnesses as they arise. One of these is thyme honey. This is easy to make and can be used to help remedy coughs and sore throats. To make this all you need to do is cut a good piece of thyme and put it into a jar of honey that has been heated slightly to soften it. Make sure all the plant material is covered or it can get moldy. I just leave it like this all winter and use as is. Of course someone who has more energy and time would remove the thyme from the honey after it has infused for a few weeks. Use this honey directly for a cough syrup (or diluted in a little water) or add to a tea. Thyme has traditionally been used to treat upper respiratory infections and does a good job.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Cucumber Spread (Tzatziki)

If you haven't had a frost yet and still have cucumbers, try this recipe for a cucumber spread often called tzatziki. You can vary the consistancy of the dish by how finely you grind the cucumbers or how much liquid you let drain out of the cucumbers.

3 cucumbers - peel and remove seeds (give the seeds to your chickens - they love them!)
2 cups of yogurt (low fat or high if you want)
3 garlic cloves
8 or so mint leaves
salt and pepper to taste

Chunk the cucumber, salt it and put it in a strainer to drain for 45 minutes to an hour. Put everything in a food processor bowl and pulse gradually to the desired consistency. Empty into a bowl. Serve as a sauce on veggie burgers, on pita bread, as a chip dip (low cal!), or eat straight with a spoon.

If however, your growing season has ended as ours has this week make sure to give all those bad cucumbers to your chickens. I cut mine in half longwise and they love picking out the seeds - same for your too big zucchinis.

Our nighttime temperatures this week will be in the 20s. My calendula however is hanging on nicely so I can still pick those flowers.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

The Harvest is In

We are expecting our first hard frost tonight and spent the weekend picking as much as we could from the garden; tomatoes, zucchini and cucumbers primarily. We had grilled vegetable sandwiches today and will continue to have grilled zucchini for some time. I was able to grow one large pumpkin which has made it to my front porch. All the pots of annuals and tenders are in the greenhouse, save for a few pots of mint that I brought inside. I do wish I'd picked some rhubarb to make some syrup from; but it might still be ok tomorrow. I've picked as many herbs as I can and they are now drying. The changing of the seasons is always a nice time and now with Halloween coming it is time to change the focus. Hope your harvest was great.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Herbs For Winter Health Class

Now is the time to start stocking up on your herbal medicines for winter; elderberry syrup, echinacea tincture, thyme honey, sage tea. I will be teaching a class at the Gardens at Spring Creek in Ft. Collins Thursday night October 7 from 6:30-8:30 on winter health. Learn both how to keep your immune system strong and to treat minor conditions before they become major. Nobody can completely avoid cold and flu viruses, but we can do our best to prevent getting sick from them. During class we will make a winter tonic to take home. To sign up go to or call 970-416-2280.

Saturday, September 20, 2008


I was surfing today looking for something for dinner and found something I had never heard of, Gremolata. I was surprised yet excited that there was an herb condiment that I was unfamiliar with. Because I was looking for a protein dish (as I often do being vegetarian) I used a version of gremolata with nuts in it. Here is the recipe:

3/4 c pecans
1/4 c grated parmesan cheese
1/4 c parsley
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 garlic clove
1 tablespoon oil (optional)

Pulse in a blender/grinder until ground and mixed. Add salt and pepper. I mixed this with chunks of roasted butternut squash but it can be served with any vegetables or as a spread for bread. It reminds me somewhat of pesto with the combination of herb, nuts and cheese. I think you could substitute any type of nut, especially roasted walnuts or any kind of herb. Have you ever made this and how have you used it?

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Whats in the Still?

I haven't distilled as much as I've wanted to this summer. My newly planted herbs just haven't grown big enough to have the amounts needed for distilling. This is disappointing because I have bought a new still. I have been able to combine some of my herbs with those of gracious friends and neighbors though to be able to have enough.

I have been able to distill comfrey, catnip, lemon balm, blue spruce, and chocolate mint. Catnip distillate I use as a base for making my bug repellent spray. Comfrey is a herb that heals epithelial cells so it is good for any skin care product. Comfrey distillate has worked well for me sprayed on a burn in the kitchen. I will also try using it for muscle aches and tendonitis that I seem to get alot of from l weed pulling. Blue spruce I spray on my face for a boost of energy. Lemon balm is great for many skin care applications including burns, rashes and irritations. Its aroma is light, lemony and uplifting. Cookbook author and culinary herbalist, Susan Belsinger, gave me this recipe for Goodnight milk:
To one cup of warm milk add 1 tsp of lemon balm distillate and 1 tsp of maple syrup. The soothing properties of this milk will surely bring about a good night's sleep.

Distillates contain the parts of the plant that vaporize at a temperature at or below that of water. This includes microscopic droplets of essential oils that dissolve as well as organic plant acids. Distillates or hydrosols as they are often called are good for use directly on the skin, especially the face as a toner. Mix with a little glycerol and they become a great toner/moisturizer. If you want to keep a distillate around for awhile though it needs a preservative. Otherwise, keep it in the refrigerator and spray it on your face for a cooling refreshment during the hot days of summer. You can still get several types of distillates from Sagescript including comfrey, lemon balm, blue spruce and catnip.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Pesto and Peach Rhubarb Crisp

Its hard for me to pick a favorite summer food, but pesto certainly ranks high on the list. Its easy to make and can be served as a sauce for pasta, a spread for baguette slices or on roasted potatoes. Try spreading it on bread for a grilled cheese sandwich! Here is a recipe I use:


2 cups of fresh basil leaves
1/2 cup olive oil
1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese
1/4 cup pine nuts
2 medium garlic cloves
salt and pepper

First put basil and olive oil in a small food processor and pulse until basil is ground. Then add the rest of the ingredients and pulse until ground. Although I never seem to have enough to satisfy my summer cravings some people do make enough to freeze. There are many variations you can make on pesto also. Try substituting some of the basil for parsley or arugula or other herbs that you have growing.

I like to serve it with chopped fresh tomatoes and pan charred zucchini. To make the zucchini:

Slice a zucchini in 1/4 to 1/2 inch slices. Put slices in a hot fry pan with 2-3 tablespoons of olive oil on medium-high heat. Cook a few minutes on each side until zucchini is lightly charred or browned on each side. Of course this tastes best with one of Colorado's fine microbrewed beer such as Left Hand's Sawtooth or New Belgium's Fat Tire.

For desert try a peach rhubarb crisp.

Peach Rhubarb Crisp

5 large peaches, peeled and sliced
5 large stalks of rhubarb, sliced
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1/2 cup sugar

Add the above to a greased 9 inch square pan.
Mix together and sprinkle over fruit:
3/4 cup oatmeal
3/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup flour
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 c butter

Bake at 350 degrees F for 40 minutes.

Enjoy the harvest and eat well!

Raised Bed and Garden Pictures

I took a few pictures in the garden today to share here and also wanted to tell you about the project I just finished; making some raised beds. For the raised beds I bought some lumber at the Restore which is a store run by Habitat for Humanity. They sell alot of used items donated by contractors including wood. These boards I got are 8" by 2" and very heavy sturdy lumber. I made the boxes 8 feet long by 3 1/2 feet wide using 4X4 posts for corners. I made two of these boxes and put them in front of my workshop building in an area that is weedy and gravely. They will do alot to improve the aethetics of the area! The next part of the plan is to build a patio of sorts with pavers - but that will have to wait. I filled the first box with a combination of horse manure, goat manure, chicken manure, straw and dirt; all from the property (its not just cheap, its sustainable!). I'll probably be able to get a few perennials in their this fall yet. The second box however will have to wait as I will fill it gradually over the winter.

Clover didn't grow where I planted it near the fruit trees, but it did come up volunteering in my bed; which is ok by me. I find it attractive as well as useful.

Here are pictures of my pumpkin, zucchini, larkspur and holy basil.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Antibiotic Use Linked to Increase Cancer Risk

More alarming news today in the field of medicine; a new study finds that antibiotic use increased the risk of several types of cancers including breast cancer, prostate cancer, lung cancer and colon cancer. Similar studies have been done in the past and this study supports the evidence. Scientists looked at data from over 3 million patients. Antibiotic use has been linked to other major issues the most severe being that of antibiotic resistance. This link to cancer is even more significant to health and the risk increases with increased antibiotic use. Of course antibiotics are necessary at times and can save lives, but since their inception in the 1940's they have been both misused and overused. It is always good to question an antibiotic prescription and ask if it is really necessary. Oftentimes a physician will prescribe an antibiotic just for patient satisfaction.

Most antibiotics are prescribed for self limiting illnesses that tend to improve on their own such as children's middle ear infection (otitis media) or bronchitis. Research studies have found that antibiotics are unnecessary for uncomplicated cases of both of these conditions.

There are also many ways that herbs can help relieve symptoms of these conditions. Gargle with sage tea for a sore throat. Make eardrops by infusing garlic in a little olive oil. Essential oil of lavender can be added to that to soothe a fuss child. For more information see my book "The Antibiotic Alternative."

The relationship between antibiotics and cancer is not known and how antibiotics would influence a cell to grow uncontrollably as in cancer has not yet been identified.
International Journal of Cancer 2008 Aug 14, doi: 10.1002/ijc.23622

Friday, August 22, 2008

Moisturizers linked to Skin Cancer?

I just came across this alarming news; 4 separate lotions were tested in mice and found to increase the occurrence and growth of skin cancer following exposure to UV light. The moisturizers used and their ingredients (as well as I could find) are:

Dermabase - water, petrolatum, mineral oil, cetostearyl alcohol, propylene glycol, sodium laurel sulfate, isopropyl palmitate, imidazolidinyl urea, methylparaben and propylparaben.

Dermovan is a wholesale product used as a base or vehicle for other ingredients by compounding pharmacists. It apparently has not been available since 2006 but contains water, glyceryl stearate and stearamidoethyl diethylamine, glycerin, mineral oil, cetyl esters, cetyl alcohol, butylparaben, methylparaben, and propylparaben.

Eucerin (original) – Water, Petrolatum, Mineral Oil, Ceresin, Lanolin Alcohol, Methylchloroisothiazolinone, Methylisothiazolinone

Vanicream - Water Purified, White Petrolatum, Cetearyl Alcohol, Ceteareth 20, Sorbitol Solution, Propylene Glycol, Simethicone, Glyceryl Monostearate, Polyethylene Glycol Monostearate, Sorbic Acid, BHT

All four creams are emollients that are recommended by dermatologists for dry, rough, scaly and itchy skins.

The initial purpose of this study was to investigate if caffeine added to a skin cream could inhibit the formation of cancer after UV exposure. Preliminary evidence has found that this is true. These four creams were chosen as the bases to add caffeine to and were undergoing testing to confirm that they were suitable as negative controls. The research however suggested they were not negative controls but actually increased the growth of two types of non-melanoma skin cancer in mice. Dermovan had the highest results.

Because of these results the researchers asked Johnson & Johnson to make a custom blend to test. The ingredients of this blend were: purified water, propylene glycol, stearyl alcohol, cetyl alcohol, polysorbate 20, isopropyl myristate, C12-15 alkyl benzoate, benzoic acid, glycerin, and sodium hydroxide. Although this cream did not show evidence of increasing skin cancer in mice more human research on this and other moisturizers will certainly be required.

It is difficult to pinpoint a possible ingredient in these creams that may be at the root of promoting skin cancer. Looking at the ingredients list however one can see that petrolatum (mineral oil) is found in the creams contributing to skin cancer but not in the custom blend that tested negative. According to the National Toxicology Program, mineral oil is related to skin cancer in mice at least.
Sodium lauryl sulphate found in at least one of the creams is considered an irritant by some. There are several other ingredients found in these products that would never find their way into creams and lotions made by Sagescript Institute. Possibly ingredients that are not tumorigenic by themselves can act synergistically with UV light to be more tumorigenic. It is of course too early to relate these results to humans though but you can be sure that more testing will be done in this area. In the meantime keep in mind that certain herbs have been found to decrease skin damage caused by UV light including green and black tea, rosemary and raspberry seed oil.

Yao-Ping Lu, You-Rong Lou, Jian-Guo Xie, Qingyun Peng, Weichung J Shih, Yong Lin and Allan H Conney. Tumorigenic Effect of Some Commonly Used Moisturizing Creams when Applied Topically to UVB-Pretreated High-Risk Mice. Journal of Investigative Dermatology advance online publication 14 August 2008; doi: 10.1038/jid.2008.241

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Minty Peach Drink

Earlier this week it was quite hot while I was working outside so I was looking for a cool drink. I noticed the peaches on the counter and made this drink:
In a blender container put:
4 peaches (peeled and quartered)
2 tablespoons of honey
juice of one lime
fill blender with ice
Add 4 mint leaves

Blend all together and pour into glasses. This is a great icey, refreshing drink for a hot summer afternoon. Try it.
By the way, Colorado peaches make the best drink!

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Wedding Herbs

My younger brother finally tied the knot so to speak and got married. For his wedding I put together an assortment of herbs as an 'Herbal Blessing'. Sometimes these herb mixes can be used instead of rice to toss at the couple with wishes of good luck. They don't have the problems that rice has with expanding in a bird's stomach and they don't have the problems of causing weeds like seeds do. They can also be placed in a bowl for guests to scoop out some to put into small organza bags. However, the place where my brother's wedding was did not allow anything loose like this so they put the herbs in organza bags before the wedding and set them in the reception area for guests to take.

Each herb has a specific meaning. Although flowers and herbs have probably always had meanings, they were popularized during Victorian times when polite people would never openly talk about their feelings but would rather send their messages (especially those that dealt with love) in the form of flowers. Even though we tend to speak quite freely now, using herbs to send a message adds a nice touch.

Here are the herbs and their meanings that I included in this combination:
Rose for Love
Lavender for Devotion
Rosemary for Remembrance
Larkspur for Joy
Sage for Virtue
Chamomile for Patience
Thyme for Strength

Thursday, August 7, 2008

An Herb A-Fair

I can't believe summer is nearing an end, but this is my favorite time with the harvest abundant. I've just returned from my brothers wedding and next week I will post about the Wedding Herbs I made for them. This post is just to let you know that there will be an Herb A-Fair at the Gardens at Spring Creek in Ft. Collins this Sunday, August 8 from 12:00-5:00 pm. I will be giving a presentation on skin care herbs at 2:00 and also selling some of my products there. This will include my two new products: an all natural bug spray (NoSkeetos) and a botanical face cream packed with antioxidants for antiaging effects (Springtide). This is the first annual herb fair for the Gardens and I hope you can make it out.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Calendula - herb of the year

The Calendula plant (Calendula officinalis), specifically its flowers, is best known for its use in skin care. Pot marigold as it is often called has anti-viral, anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties. Its ability to promote epithelial cell growth and healing of the skin has been well documented in both animal and human studies. Calendula also has purported immunostimulating activity that contributes to its wound healing ability. It is the flowers of calendula that contain these healing properties.

Calendula is useful for minor abrasions but also for leg ulcers, radiation burns, and surgical wounds. It can also be used internally for wounds such as stomach ulcers.

Calendula for skin care is primarily used as an oil infusion. Oil infusions are easy to make and can be done simply by putting a handful of dried calendula flowers in a jar and completely covering those flowers with an oil of your choice. I use olive oil for its anti-inflammatory properties or rice bran oil for its high content of phytoestrogens. Once the infused oil is made and the herbs are filtered out with cheesecloth, beeswax can be added to form a more solid product that is used as a balm for damaged skin. This infused oil can also be added to hand and body lotions, bath oils, salt scrubs or even soap for its healing properties. The high vitamin A content of this oil is also a plus for epithelial cell health.

Calendula is an excellent choice for for a hand balm for gardeners and can also be combined with healing herbs like plantain or comfrey. I make a balm that I call knuckle balm that is perfect for working hands on gardeners or mechanics. It soothes dry cracked hands that work hard. You can order this balm from my website or by email.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Colorado Cupboard

Colorado Cupboard is a unique gift shop in Longmont, Colorado where I sell some of my products. Located at 2001 North Main Street it is far enough north that it is convenient for travelers on highway 66 on their way to Rocky Mountain National Park. At the Colorado Cupboard you can find food items including reheatable meals, jewelry, art and gift baskets. All the products at the Colorado Cupboard are locally made so offer a uniquely Colorado experience. I sell skin care products there including lotions, balms, soaps and bath salts as well as flavored black teas, culinary herbs (Herbs de St. Vrain) and dream pillows. You can also find my newly developed natural mosquito repellant there, NoSkeeto! Owner Dayna Nixon can also make you a gift basket with any combination of locally made items. Their website is: Do stop by if you are local or visiting Colorado and support the local economy.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

The Unlikely Lavender Queen Review

I was very excited about reviewing Jeannie Ralston's book "The Unlikely Lavender Queen" for no other reason than that it dealt with the subject of lavender. I soon found however, that this book is much more than Jeannie's memoir of her lavender farm, it is a book about life, change and acceptance.

As a high profile New York writer and editor, Jeannie Ralston was not excited about moving to Texas after marrying photographer Robb Kendrick. She lived for her trips back to New York. She soon found that Texas was not the only surprise Robb had for her. There was the second move to acreage in more rural Texas and the remodeling involved in their new house. As if that weren’t enough, after a visit to Provence to photograph lavender Robb was inspired to see if lavender would grow in Texas. With him being out of town often for jobs, Jeannie soon found that she was responsible for the lavender and decided to jump in with both feet. Through her skillful writing and storytelling we learn how she became not just comfortable in her new environment but also learned to love it. Could it have been the lavender that changed her?

Jeannie and Robb soon found the lavender business to be too overwhelming with their family life. In 2006, after being in business for 5 years, they sold Hill Country Lavender to their assistant, Tasha Brieger. They are now taking on new adventures in Mexico.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Roses Roses

Roses are blooming and nothing could be prettier. I have several large rose bushes shown here on my property line. I have no idea what they are but they are slightly aromatic with beautiful buds on them. I also have several somewhat aromatic roses in front of my house. Their color is a beautiful pinkish red. I am cutting flowers and buds from both of these roses to dry for later use. Because I am interested in distilling roses I just bought several roses that I am told are very aromatic. One is the Kasinlik rose that is grown in Bulgaria for oil. Another is a David Austin Golden Celebration. This one and a Mr. Lincoln I planted right off of my deck so that I can enjoy the aroma with my morning coffee or evening dinner. A fourth one I bought unfortunately the clerk at the nusery pulled out the tag so I don't remember what it is. I resisted the pressure at the nursery to buy their super duper organic fertilizer. I'll fertilize these roses with manure from my chickens instead. Using what we have on the farm is important to me.
With these four highly aromatic roses I am hoping for enough blossoms for distilling next summer. Until then I will be collecting petals and buds for crafts. Last year I strung small rose buds on a string that I draped over a table lamp so the heat from the light released the aroma of the roses. This year I will dry petals for potpouri. Dried rose petals add a nice flavor to black tea. You can also make a strong tea from the petals to use to wipe the face clean at night. Rose can be very hydrating for the skin. Two things I've not done with roses is make wreaths or rose beads. These are crafts I might try during the winter months when I am longing for the aroma of roses. Until then I will enjoy cutting and drying fresh roses!

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Skin Care from your Kitchen and Herb Garden

I'll be teaching a class this Monday night, June 23 at the Gardens on Spring Creek. This is a new botanical gardens in Ft. Collins encompassing 18 acres. We will discuss various herbs that are used for skin care such as calendula, plantain, lavender, chamomile, rose, fennel and lemon balm. Students should bring a washcloth as we will go through a 5-step process of skin care including cleaning, facial steam, facial mask, astringent or toner, and moisturizing. If you live in Northern Colorado you might want to sign up for this class.
For more information go to:

Friday, June 6, 2008

Preserving Chives

Have you ever tried to dry chives for culinary use? Well I have and they taste alot like paper when they are dried. I guess they have to be freeze dried to preserve the flavor. What I do now is to cut the fresh chives with a scissors into small pieces and put those into a sandwich bag for the freezer. Kept this way the flavor will be preserved and you can use them all winter (if your bag is big enough). Be daring and toss some chive flowers in there too. Keep them in the door of your freezer so they are handy as you prepare meals.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Plantago (Plantain) in the Garden

I’ve never done much with plantain because I didn’t have a lot of it in my yard. After moving here though I have found it growing prolifically throughout disturbed soil. There are two varieties of this herb that is sometimes called rib grass. Plantago major has roundish leaves that lie close to the ground while Plantago lanceolata has narrow leaves that stand upright. We have the lanceolata variety here which I find much easier to harvest. Plantain has many benefits. It is great for cuts and insect bites gotten outside where it is easy to pick a leaf and wrap it around the injury as a dressing. For this reason it has been called ‘nature’s band-aid’. An added benefit is that it stops bleeding and is anti-inflammatory. It is also good as a tea for lung problems such as bronchitis. Seeds of this plant can also be used as a mild laxative as would psyllium be used. It has also been used as a diuretic and for diarrhea. Its use as an antitoxin is less common. It is not native to North America and the Native Americans would refer to it as “white man’s footprint” knowing that Europeans had been there with seed. I’ve been picking and drying this herb a lot lately and plan to use more of it over the coming year, probably adding it to my ‘Knuckle Balm”.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Raptors at Our Farm

We have seen quite a few raptors here at our farm including owls, hawks and bald eagles and I wanted to share some of the pictures with you. Although its quite exciting to see these great predators, I do worry about my small animals; cat, dog and chickens. We’ve seen this great horned owl in a tree by our house several times. According to Wikipedia the great horned owl is the only owl known to have killed a human. Many cultures have a special place for owls in their storytelling. I’m told in both Native American and Irish cultures the great horned owl was considered a messenger of death or at least ill well but also associated with the medicine men/women. Other stories say that the great horned owl is associated with the soul of the dead. Perhaps it is one of my parents or my sister looking out for me. Owls in general are said to give energy, wisdom and bravery.

The barn owl we found in our driveway. It could not move its legs and so we put it in this cage and my son drove it to the owl rescue group. Unfortunately we do not know what became of it afterward. Other raptors we have seen include falcons and the red tailed hawk. We have also been visited by a blue heron.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Under The Sun

Tina Sams never fails to amaze me. I have mentioned before about her magazine "The Essential Herbal"; now she has compiled articles from the first 5 years of publication and put them into a book entitled "Under the Sun, the First Five Years". The book is organized into chapters on gardening, in the kitchen, just weeds, herbal first aid, the stillroom, traditions, the herbs and herb business. You will find articles about soapmaking and cooking, drinking and crafting and lots of just naturalist experiences. The magazine has been a dream of Tina’s for some time. Writers contribute their time and skills because herbs are their passion. I only recently joined Tina in her venture and am glad I did. Reading the articles in this book is like listening to old friends discuss their lives and their passions. It is a sizable book of 220 pages so it will take some time to read. I would highly recommend going to Tina’s website and ordering your copy (

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Mother's Day Tussie Mussie

I miss my Mom. She died two years ago. When she was alive I remember giving her a tussie mussie one year for Mothers Day. This year I will walk my garden (and look in my dried collection) to see what plants I have to pay tribute to her on this Mothers Day.

Basil for the unconditional love she gave me and my siblings.
Rosemary for remembering her and the lessons she taught me.
Sage for her endless wisdom and to represent my grief.
Scented geranium for our happy times together.
Lavender for her devotion to her family.
Thyme for her strength and courage in raising 8 children.

Happy Mother's Day to all the Mom's!

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Cold Sores

As if one weren’t enough, I have two huge cold sores on my lip. My normal procedure for cold sores is to take vitamin C, vitamin B and apply a lip balm that I made that contains lemon balm infused oil. Although I did that yesterday it has gotten worse. Cold sores are caused by the herpes simplex virus. This virus will reside in a dormant state in the nerve tissue. In the case of cold sores on the lips the virus is typically in the trigeminal nerve ganglion (a collection of nerve cell bodies). For some unknown reasons this virus will travel down the nerve to the skin and start to replicate there cause fluid filled vesicles. Things that trigger these outbreaks include stress, sunshine, menstruation, injury or an immune deficiency. In my case it is typically stress that causes a cold sore. In the past few weeks I have been busy planting Nanking cherries, choke cherries, roses, lavender, cedar trees, roses, raspberries and some miscellaneous herbs. I am also finishing up teaching for the semester and getting grades done. Then the normal animal care and family activities that increase towards the end of the school year. Together, these and unnamed things have caused me a little stress.

Since this cold sore has gotten worse overnight I think I will have to do more than my normal regimen. Although there are antiviral drugs available to treat herpes, there have also been an increasing number of resistant viruses as a result of this. I would hate to think that virus’s will develop this life threatening condition that has occurred in bacteria due to overuse of antibiotics. I will pass on the antiviral drugs and try some other herbal treatments I don’t normally use. Perhaps I will apply lavender oil to the sore or Echinacea extract. I might also drink lemon balm (Melissa officinalis) tea or sage tea and have some garlic toast (my favorite cold remedy). I may use myrrh essential oil to relieve the pain as well. And what about relaxing a little? It’s a somewhat rainy day today which decreases what I can do outside so maybe I’ll sit around with my cup of lemon balm/sage tea for awhile.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

130 plants

The local conservation district here sells small seedling plants cheap to people with acreage to use as wind blocks or other screens. These are the plants I bought in the back of my pickup truck. They include 50 nanking cherries, 50 choke cherries and 30 red cedars. We got these last week and planting them is taking a bit of my time! It may take a few years for them to actually do any good but don't they say the person who plants a tree believes in the future!

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Springtime in the Rockies

I've been meaning to take some pictures of some spring growth around my place. I thought I'd better do it now as we are under a winter storm warning and my plants may be burried tomorrow under a foot of snow. Here are my chives, clary sage and spring bulbs. As I upload these images the hail has begun! Perhaps I will take pictures tomorrow of the snow.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Basil Benefits

Basil is one of my favorite herbs and I hope to have a good supply of it this summer. Enough to be able to distill, make pesto, and eat fresh with garden tomatoes and mozzarella. I sometimes don’t do well getting basil started from seed because I don’t water enough. I’ve been more successful at this by putting seeds in a large pot, watering and covering that pot with plastic wrap. This helps keep the moisture in and the seed soon sprouts. This year I have dug a small ditch, filled that ditch with horse manure, planted seed there. I covered that with a small plastic covered hoop until the weather warms up. I am hoping that this will allow me some early basil before I start my larger garden.

While I was researching basil (Ocimum) for an Herb Companion article I came across some interesting information on this aromatic herb.

1. Basil has been found to attenuate the stress response to excess noise in rats. This ability to help the body respond to stress is probably due to the wide variety of antioxidants found in basil which inclde flavonoids, phenols and carotenoids.

2. Human hair as well as sheep hair (wool) can fertilize basil increasing its growth. Next time you get a hair cut, work a little of the hair into your soil. Hair is a protein and so it is high in nitrogen. I’m wondering if my horse’s hair will also be beneficial.

3. Basil protects against harmful effects of ionizing radiation. This may provide protection to healthy, non-cancerous cells during radiation treatment for cancer or protect your skin from the sun.
4. Basil can help normalize blood glucose levels and thus prevent insulin resistance for borderline diabetics. Eat basil with high protein mozzarella cheese and whole grain bread and that’s even better for diabetics.
5. The shelf life of high protein food such as tofu can be extended with basil. This study was done in India where refrigeration is not as common in rural areas.
6. Basil contains antioxidants that can protect against damage to DNA resulting in mutations. It also protects against oxidative stress from a variety of sources. This important benefit protects us from free radicals that arise from environmental sources as well as within our own body. In this way it acts as an ‘adaptogenic’ herb.
7. Basil can help the skin in wound healing and may prevent formation of scars. Go ahead, rub it on!
8. Basil is anti-inflammatory agent and can decrease heat and swelling of an injured area making it a potential treatment for arthritis.
9. Basil has potential applications to lower blood pressure.
10. Basil is both antibacterial and anti-parasitic having action against Staph aureus and Giardia. It may also be active against mosquitoes.
11. Basil can inhibit growth of breast cancer cells in the lab and thus may provide anticancer activity in the diet. Is that enough reason to plant extra basil?

Monday, March 17, 2008

St. Pat's Day and mint syrup

We woke up to a few inches of snow on St. Patrick’s Day today. It should be just what those dormant plants need to get started though. We’ve just desodded a small area for our vegetable garden so as soon as this snow melts I will be planting my peas and lettuce.

A few weeks ago I bought a small mint plant from my local nursery so that I could have something green in the house. Now it’s grown to a usable size. Last night we made a mint syrup by first mixing a simple syrup (2 parts sugar, 1 part water) and put about a tablespoon of fresh chopped mint leaves into the syrup after it boiled; leaving them there while it cooled. This made a very nice syrup to use in a drink. We mixed about one part syrup with 3 parts soda water and lots of ice. Its also good with a squirt of lemon juice. This is our St. Patricks Day drink this year; well at least for the morning because I am sure we will have some Irish whiskey come evening!

In honor of St. Patrick’s day here is one of my favorite blessings:

Deep peace of the running waves to you.
Deep peace of the flowing air to you.
Deep peace of the smiling stars to you.
Deep peace of the quiet earth to you.
Deep peace of the watching shepherds to you.
Deep peace of the Son of Peace to you.
Old Irish Prayer

May Saints. Brighid, Brendan and Patrick guide you on your way.

Monday, March 10, 2008

New Bacteria Found in Toiletries

If you are a small (or large) producer of skin care or toiletries products here are examples of why it is important to test cosmetic samples for the presence of bacteria and fungus.

Researchers in Japan recently identified a new species of bacteria that was isolated from hairspray. The new bacteria is named Microbacterium hatanonis. This bacteria is related to another bacterium, Microbacterium oxydans previously isolated from hospital material. Scientists do not have enough information to know if this new bacteria species is pathogenic, but similar bacteria have not been found to infect humans. It is however a gram-positive, rod shaped bacterium. The original research was published this month in the International Journal of Systemic and Evolutionary Microbiology.

Another more serious case of a contaminated cosmetic product occurred in 2006 in the intensive care unit of a Barcelona hospital. Five patients there developed infections of Burkholderia cepacia that were traced to a moisturizing lotion used in patient care. In this case the infections ranged from bacteremia, lower respiratory tract infection and urinary tract infection. Infections of this type can be life threatening for severely ill patients.

It is not common for cosmetics to be contaminated with bacteria or fungus but it does happen. This contamination at times can be a threat to human health as well as damage the product integrity. Microbes can be introduced into a product during manufacturing from the air or equipment that comes in contact with the product, it can be present in one of the ingredients of the product, or it can be introduced into the product by the consumer. Preservatives used in a product should be able to inhibit bacteria or fungus that do occur naturally in a product as well as those introduced by the consumer.

In 1989 the FDA randomly tested department store cosmetics products and found that over 5% were seriously contaminated with a variety of microorganisms. Don’t let your product be one of them. Sagescript Institute offers microbiology testing.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Spring Kick Off & Herb Talk

Are you wondering what herbs to plant this year? I will be talking at Echter’s Garden Center and Greenhouse this Saturday from 10:30-11:00 on growing and using herbs. Echter’s will kick off spring with their annual Echxpo on March 7, 8, & 9. There will be continuous talks given by plant and gardening experts Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Representatives from a variety of gardening and plant companies as well as special interest groups including the Herb Society of America will also be on hand to answer questions.

My talk is entitled “Making the Most of Herbs”. I will focus on some common herbs and introduce you to a variety of uses for them including culinary, skin care, medicinal and crafting. I will include information on Calendula, herb of the year as well as chamomile, oregano, thyme and more. After attending Echxpo you will be ready to get your hands dirty! It may be too early to plant, but its never too early to plan.

Echter’s is located at 52nd and Garrison in Arvada, Colorado. For more information visit

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Doomsday Vault Opens

In the far northern reaches of the Norwegian arctic in an area called Svalbard the world is entrusting the preservation of stock seeds of its major food crops. If you’ve ever wondered how the world might recover from an Armageddon type of catastrophe this is part of it. Hopefully we will not suffer the effects of nuclear war, political turmoil or climatic upheaval, but if we do there will be over 6.5 million different cultivars of crops properly stored that can be retrieved from the Svalbard Global Seed Vault. In today’s move towards genetically engineered crops there may also come a time when genetic diversity decreases to the point where these stored seeds can be a mainstay.

The vault officially opened today with stockpiling of a variety of grains and legumes weighing in at 11 tons and representing 92 different crops. Stockpiling will continue for several years with crop seed being supplied by plant breeding facilities most located at universities. It is impressive to see world governments coming together to work on such a project.

The vault is maintained by the Global Crop Diversity Trust (GCDT). The GCDT was established through a partnership between the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization and the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research as an independent organization to ensure conservation and availability of crop diversity. Genetic diversity is an important scientific concept especially when it comes to crops. Diversity ensures that there are a diversity of crops adapted to a variety of growing conditions. I only hope that the vault also contains a variety of herbs because in the case of “doomsday” these will be of utmost importance. But we should also all make sure that we are saving seeds from crops such as herbs that are of importance to us as well. If doomsday does come our lives will depend upon herbal medicines. You can read more about the vault here:

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

An Herb Magazine

This time of year gardeners like me can get pretty anxious waiting for spring to arrive. Here in the Rocky Mountain state spring can be very elusive; one day its warm the next day we could get 3 feet of snow. Besides perusing seed catalogues I suggest you download a sample copy of The Essential Herbal magazine. This is not one of those glossy, fluff filled magazines written by writers who like herbs, rather it is written by herb enthusiasts who like to write. You can be assured that the articles are written by herbies for other herbies and that the suggestions are tried and true not something pulled out of a hat. I count the editor, Tina Sams as a friend and she is someone overflowing with good ideas. This magazine sample is sure to keep you busy until planting time with good ideas, recipes and even a crossword puzzle. Heck, if you like it you can even order a subscription to it to keep you with ideas all year round. And if you're lucky, you might even read an article I wrote.
You can download your free sample here:

On another note, Tina has collected a group of us herb enthusiasts to blog on a common blog. You can check it out at

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Valentine's Day Sugar Herb Hearts

Need a Last Minute Gift for your Valentine? I had heard about sugar hearts being sold at tea houses and wanted to try it myself. What I found is that it is an elegant way to use herbs for flavor. For the first hearts I made I added ground rose hips in an attempt to give the hearts a pink color. That didn’t work so I added cinnamon and clove as well. They are more brown than pink, but very yummy. I also made lavender hearts, viola hearts and rose petal hearts. The rose petal are my favorite, but next time I might cut down on the amount of red rose petals to give a more pastel color. Here is how to make them:

1 cup sugar
1 tablespoon dried herbs

Put these together in a blender for several seconds. Remove and put in a shallow bowl. Add a scant 1 tablespoon of water and mix well. It should not be wet but rather just damp. That dampness will hold the sugar together. Note that the color will darken slightly with water. Press the dampened sugar into molds and let set overnight. I used plastic tray of heart molds intended for candy making. Turn the molds upside down and tap the hearts out. Use hearts as a decorative way to serve sugar with your tea or give them as candy treats which is what my family will get for Valentine’s Day.

Friday, February 8, 2008

Herb Society Tea Party

I can’t think of a better way to spend a blustery Sunday in February than with fellow herbies at our annual Herb Society of AmericaRocky Mountain Unit)tea party. This year’s theme was Mardis Gras.The pot luck dishes included gumbo, pecan pie bars, spicy spinach balls and of course King Cake with a tiny plastic baby hidden in inside for someone to find. My contribution was Vegetarian Jambalaya (see recipe below). A commemorative herb tea was designed to mark the occasion.
This year’s tea was held at the Denver Botanical Gardens as it often is. Attendees came dressed for the occasion wearing purple, blue and green and dawning feathered masks. In addition to the feathered masks a demonstration on fresh facial masks was given by Tonja Reichley of MoonDance Botanicals and we all went home with a sample of chocolate rose face mask to try in the privacy of our home! Our Herb Society group meets once a month at theDenver Botanical Gardens for a business meeting and an herbal presentation. I believe our next presentation will be on chocolate (one of my favorite herbs)! Do stop by.
1 chopped onion
3 cloves minced garlic
2 ribs chopped celery
1 chopped green bell pepper
1 chopped red bell pepper
1 cup sliced mushrooms
2 cups brown rice
6 cups vegetable broth
Cook for 15 minutes
2 sliced zuchinnis
1 large can chopped tomatoes
2 cups sliced vegetarian sausages (Morning Star links)
2 tsp oregano
1 tsp paprika
½ tsp cayenne pepper (more to taste)
3 tsp dried parsley
1 tsp salt
1 tsp sage
1 tsp dried marjoram
Cook 20 more minutes or until rice is done. Eat up and enjoy!


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