I met with the wonderful tall Elodie for lunch yesterday and on our way back we found a wonderful tall Fennel plant in a geveltuin. Here they are together…
And these eye catching but poisonous berries of Ivy.
This recipe for anti cellulite body oil is inspired by one in Josephine Fairley’s book, The Ultimate Natural Beauty Book. My sister gave it to me as a present several years ago and although I don’t use it very often, it always provides inspiration for natural skin care. The recipe in the book uses a few drops of essential oils of Rosemary, Fennel and Juniper.
In my adaptation, I use small amounts of the fresh plants or seeds. I also substitute olive oil, argan oil or sweet almond oil for grape seed oil as that oil quickly becomes rancid whereas my substitutes don’t. If you prefer a lighter oil then you could substitute coconut oil, mixed with a little of one of the other options.
15 large fresh Ivy leaves
Tip of a fresh Juniper sprig
Tip of a fresh Rosemary sprig
1/2 Teaspoon of fennel seeds
125ml oil (see above for options)
1. Bruise the plant material with a pestle & mortar or similar.
2. Place in a clean glass container and put over the oil.
3. Use a chopstick to push the herbs into the oil and to dislodge any trapped air bubbles.
4. Leave in a sunny spot for about 4 Weeks.
5. Strain off and save the infused you’ll into a clean glass container. Compost the spent herbs our return then to where you found them.
6. Use the oil as you would any massage oil, with upward strokes to move the circulation towards the heart. Do this preferably after
skin brushing with a dry sisal brush or similar.
In the winter I often enjoy burning herbs and recently the spicy scents of Frankincense and Myrrh have been wafting around our apartment. All of the senses are emotive and can conjure up long forgotten memories but for me the sense of smell is most potent. The scent of a particular time of year, the plants in bloom, humidity levels and so on, can combine and take me straight back to a unique event or emotion. Frankincense and Myrrh resin, burned over a candle on a dark winter day, do just that and they make useful room fumigants. I also enjoy the smell of good quality incense and of several dried herbs as they are directly warmed or gently burned. I am not a smoker but enjoy the smoking blend mentioned below by adding a little to the top of an aromatherapy oil vapouriser. In this case and when burning resins, I first cover the top of the vapouriser/burner with a little aluminium foil, it prevents cracking of the ceramic and makes cleaning much easier.
Inhaling herbal vapours allows them to enter the bloodstream and reach the brain quickly. Care should be taken to select herbs for this purpose wisely and it is best to begin with a very small amount, to see how you react. Some herbal vapours can quickly lift your spirits, such as Fennel seed. Others can be relaxing or overstimulating. If you are feeling exhausted or stressed out, you are more likely to react strongly to inhaled herbs. Be cautious and respectful of them.
There is a lot of folklore associated with burning herbs. Smudge sticks to cleanse spaces, moon lodges & sweat lodges where herbs are heated over hot stones, herbal fumigation in Chinese traditional medicine and herbal smokes to induce visions in spiritual aspirants are but a few uses for burning herbs. Sage commonly features in recipes; it burns well and in many cultures is believed to ward off evil. It is often used to “smudge” or cleanse spaces. Some communities burn it in the presence of new born babies, to prevent evil spirits from entering the child’s body via the cut umbilical cord. Other commonly used herbs are Frankincense, Myrrh, Artemisia spp., Fennel seed, Aniseed and Thuja (Cedar). I find that gently inhaling the vapours of herbs, feels more healing and natural than using concentrated essential oils. I am interested to know of your experiences.
If you are interested in making your own incense there is a lovely book by Scott Cunningham which details dozens of recipes. You can see an extract here: Scott Cunningham’s Incense Book
Several years ago I bought a few kilos of hand made incense sticks from Mysore market. They were apparently rolled from a blend containing honey and sandalwood. They smell absolutely divine, very clean burning with no hint of chemicals (which many commercial versions seen to contain). I only have a few sticks left so will try to find a recipe in the Cunningham book to match it.
Honey cured herbal smoking blend
This is a simple recipe which works well. Just preparing the herbs makes me feel good, warming or burning them feels soothing and a sprinkling of the mix goes well with a few grains of Frankincense and Myrrh.
Fennel (Foeniculum vulgare) is a Mediterranean hardy perennial herb which is easy to grow, particularly in relatively dry soil. It has been used since ancient times, being found amongst the burial effects of Pharaohs and being highly prized by ancient Romans. Anglo Saxons revered it as one of the nine sacred herbs and believed it could ward off evil. The Ayurvedic health system sees Fennel as being perfectly balanced in terms of pitta, vata and kapha doshas. There are many different varieties and in many countries such as Greece it grows wild as a very successful “weed”. Fennel makes a very unusual pot plant, if you have the vertical space. It can quickly grow up to 1.5m high with delicate feathery leaves, a bulbous base and large umbeliferous flower heads. All parts of this herb are aromatic, tasting of anise, and can be very useful. The “seeds” are actually fruit. Fennel is often useful during breastfeeding but shouldn’t be used in quantity during pregnancy.
Uses of Fennel
This can be prepared using either chopped dry or fresh leaves or crushed seeds. Use 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon of crushed seeds per cup of boiling water. Crushing the seeds makes a much more potent tea. This can be done with a pestle and mortar, a manual coffee grinder or by gently bashing the seeds with something such as a rolling pin. Allow to infuse for 15 minutes. If using leaves, infuse 2 – 3 teaspoons in a teapot of boiling water for 5 minutes.
Boil a cup of water and allow to cool before infusing half a teaspoon of crushed seeds for one hour. Strain carefully. Can be used in an eye bath, as drops or to soak cotton pads.
Honey Cured Herbal Smoke Mix
Mix 1 tsp honey with 4 tsp water and add gradually to a 15g dried copped sage and 2 tsp of powdered fennel seeds. Rub the liquid into the herbs until they are all slightly damp. Lay out in a shallow dish and leave for a few days, turning occasionally, until the water has mostly evaporated and the herbs feel dry enough to burn. Store the mix in an airtight container.
This cough syrup recipe was kindly sent to me by Louise from Thornbury, South Glocestershire, UK. She has been making it since attending a herbal remedies course in Bristol a few years ago. The recipe is taken from Hedley & Shaw’s book, Herbal Remedies: A practical beginner’s guide to making effective remedies in the kitchen
Louise says that… “It’s really good stuff and clears a heavy cold in a matter of days. I always keep a bottle handy in the fridge and it keeps for ages. I have even given some to colleagues in work.”
The combination of herbs is said to be soothing, antiseptic, antibiotic and expectorant. The aim of the syrup is to thin out mucus and help open up the bronchi. It is recommended by Hedley & Shaw to help relieve deep restless chesty coughs, tightness from colds and sore throats.
I made a batch this week, it tastes wonderful. There are several ingredients but all are easy to obtain and the method is really quite simple. Some of the ingredients contain strong volatile oils so this syrup should be taken in small quantities for a short period of time and should not be used by pregnant women.
Sterilising storage bottles
Remember that your storage bottles need to be sterile, to prevent contamination and prolong the life of your potion. This is best done just before you set to work with the herbs as if left until the last minute there may no time to do it properly.
(Makes approximately 350ml)
Not suitable in pregnancy or for babies
15g dried thyme (NL: Tijm)
8g dried sage (salie)
8g dried chamomile (kamille)
2 teaspoons fennel seeds (venkelzaad)
1 teaspoon aniseed (anijs)
20 cloves (nagelkruiden)
2 garlic cloves (knoflook teentjes)
Pinch cayenne pepper (cayenne) or ground ginger (gember)
450g locally sourced honey
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