Saturday, August 06, 2016

Practical Herbalist series - session 2

Last week we had our second gathering here with our current Practical Herbalist students.  The theme this month was summer blossoms, and it was a chance to work with flowers as our healing allies.

In the first session the students were introduced to methods of ethical wild harvesting, basic plant identification, and making herbal infusions, herbal oils and herbal salves.  This month we worked on several new methods for extracting herbal properties - including using witch hazel in a liniment, and making first aid poultices. We shared a delicious Summer Blossom tea (see recipe below), then made sore muscle liniment (using arnica blossoms), and healing oil (with lavender blossoms).  Together the students made plantain salve using the oil that had been steeping since the end of June. 

We also talked about various other methods for preserving herbal flowers, which each have their place depending on intended final product, use and length of storage:
- drying (e.g. lavender), to use in oil or water infusions at a later time
- honeys (e.g. chamomile), can be added later into infusions, foods, cough syrups, etc
- pestos (e.g. basil flowers, oregano or mint flowers) - for eating food as medicine
- candied (e.g. violet petals) - this only has a few weeks shelf life
- carrier oils (e.g. red clover, mullein, st johns wort flowers) to use in massage or salves
- alcohol tincturing (e.g. calendula flowers - where alcohol extracts the resins well)
- liniments (e.g. arnica blossoms) using witch hazel or rubbing alcohol (for external use only!)
- flower essences (e.g. feverfew, rose, comfrey flowers) - very subtle extraction of the vibration and essence of the flowers
- hydrosols (e.g. lavender) using a distillation method

The day also included flower herb mandalas to inspire us and remember the beauty, grace and spiritual element of our herbal allies.

Summer Blossoms Tea
1 handful fresh calendula blossoms (1 part)
1/4 handful fresh lavender (1/4 part)
2 handfuls fresh chamomile (2 parts)

1) Place flowers into a large tea pot or 1 gallon heat proof mason jar.
2) Cover with water that has just boiled, and fill the jar/tea pot with water.
3) Let steep for at least 20 minutes.  Longer steeping time extracts more goodness from the herbs.
4) Add honey or maple syrup to sweeten if you like.

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