We've always dabbled with herbal medicine: a tin of Baby Balm here, a tincture of echinacea there, some Sambucol every November, chamomile at bedtime. But I've never stopped to take the time for a comprehensive, systematic study of herbs that heal. The herb books were Mom's reading and usually it was reading done under the time constraints of some acute condition. Still, alternative medicine, and particularly herbal healing, is a burning interest of mine--one I want to pursue.
As the days grow shorter and darker this year and as the viruses threaten our home, I've decided that the perfect late fall and winter nature study is one that takes botany and brings it home for our health. And, in the true spirit of "getting things done," I am going to share our plans here for Dawn's late autumn field day, while trying to compensate for the fact that I missed her Loveliness of Homemade Fair.
Our booklist for this rabbit trail is fairly short. For the children, I purchased a Kid's Herb Book for Children of All Ages.
This is a great book! I read it through one evening during a nursing marathon and I learned so much. The author, a dedicated practicing herbalist, familiarizes with sixteen medicinal herbs. It's a children's book, but her respect for the intellect of children is readily apparent. The information in this book is not dumbed down. interspered with the science, there are fictional stories about natural life but even those are well done and my children enjoy them. For each herb, we will learn a new "technique." For instance, comfrey is the knitbone herb. We learned, at long last, how to make an herbal healing salve. I used this kit from learningherbs.com to jumpstart me.
We all enjoyed turning a small crock of simmering herbs
into little tins and pots of healing salve to give as gifts and to tuck into diaper bags and soccer backpacks.
Each child made a notebook page for comfrey which will be added to his or her own personal herbal reference book. I'll scan at least one child's entry each week and post it at Blossoms and Bees so we have an online herbal guide as well. This might be the first (and only) notebook that everyone from 4-18 completes. Katie is too little to make her plants look much like plants and I do want her to have a keepsake so I am using coloring pages from Dover's Medicinal Plants Coloring Book. I got two of these, because I have a little guy who tends to freeze if he can't do something perfectly (where'd he get that trait?) and the coloring pages will get him over the drawing hump.
I'm making notes as we do this over the winter so that when the growing season comes again, our herb garden can reflect what we learned. Hopefully, I can cut down on shipments like these from Mountain Rose Herbs.
Truth be told, much of that is my attempt to make my own postpartum-and-beyond tea. My cuppa now has equal parts Raspberry leaf, Nettle, Lady's Mantle, and Lemon Balm with some Lavender and some Cinnamon chips. Still debating whether or not to add Red Clover...
We will follow the Kids' Herb Book through the rest of the fall and into the winter, learning one a herb a week and making things like elderberry syrup, ginger ale, and slippery elm lozenges.
Before Christmas, I plan to make milk and honey herbal soap and some soy candles scented with essential oil. So far, we haven't a had huge success with honey soaps but we did make nice soap out of a simple combination of melt and pour glycerin, a little beeswax, some lavender from our garden and some lavender essential oil.
"the EPA has confirmed that those candles, and the smoke and soot they give off, contain several dangerous chemicals in significant quantities. These chemicals include known or probable carcinogens, neurotoxins and reproductive toxins.
The American Lung Association also warns that burning paraffin candles can emit toxins (in measurable amounts) into your home’s air."
Instead, we are making soy candles and scenting them with natural fragrance oil. We made our first batch last week and I'm very pleased with the result. I used a starter kit to get us going, but now we're ready to tinker with combination scents and try some longer burning, larger candles.
Following the natural theme, we are also making beeswax angel ornaments. I think that this combination of natural, yet lovely, items makes a pretty gift package.
In an effort to keep everything from being dried and bound in a book, we're going to grow some herbs indoors as well. This way, the children can gain an intimate knowledge of the plants and further appreciate what a gift they are to us. With this kit, we'll even bag our own tea!
So, there you have it: lots of little goodies for thoughtful (and natural) gift baskets, the beginnings of an herbal medicine chest, some notebook pages, an ongoing nature study, and quite an education for Mom!