13 Extraordinary Uses for Herbs

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Last month I shared a post titled 13 Easy Herbs to Grow. I’ve enjoyed fun conversations with other gardeners about growing herbs. One question I’ve had repeatedly from those new to gardening is:

“What can I do with those herbs?”

It’s a good question. I use herbs primarily for tea, potpourri and cooking. However, there are many other ways to benefit from growing and harvesting herbs.

Using last month’s post as a guide, here are 13 Extraordinary Uses for Herbs.

13 Extraordinary Uses for Herbs

Extraordinary Uses for Herbs

Using each of the easy to grow herbs from last month’s post, here are additional ways to benefit from these medicinal plants.

Basil

A favorite herb in Italian dishes, basil has powerful antibacterial properties that help to heal acne. Steep basil leaves in hot water for 30 minutes. Remove leaves and allow liquid to cool. Use a cotton square to dab basil water on acne.

Dill

This fragrant herb does more than flavor potato salad. Chew on the flowers or prepare a weak tea to use as a mouth wash for bad breath. Drink dill tea to relieve indigestion.

Mint

People love the distinctive aroma of mint. However, mice hate it. Keep mice out of the house by drying mint leaves, crushing them and sprinkling them along baseboards.

13 Extraordinary Uses for Herbs

Thyme

With its antibacterial properties, thyme makes an excellent household cleaner.  Steep sprigs of thyme in very hot water for 30 minutes. Remove herb and allow liquid to cool. Pour into a spray bottle and add a small amount of plant based soap, such as Castile Pure Organic Liquid Soap. Use to clean hard surfaces in kitchens and bathrooms.

Chives

Pour boiling water over chive flowers and leaves and allow to steep until liquid cools. Strain and pour into a spray bottle. Spray plants in the garden to prevent mildew and mold.

Lavender

This versatile plant has so many uses. Steep lavender flowers and leaves in hot water. After liquid cools use lavender water to soothe skin irritations such as burns, scrapes and cuts. Lavender’s antiseptic qualities relieves itchy bug bites as well. Store leftover water in refrigerator for additional cooling effect.

13 Estraordinary Uses for Herbs

Chamomile

The anti-inflammatory properties in this soothing herb makes it great for skin irritations as well. Pour boiling water over chamomile flowers. Allow to steep as water cools down. Remove flowers. Use chamomile water to wash wounds and rashes and heal pink eye.  Use chamomile water as a mouth wash for gum irritation.

Lemon Balm

Create lemon balm tea by steeping fresh leaves in hot water. Use tea as a mouthwash to heal canker sores and ease the pain of toothaches.

Bee Balm

The antiseptic qualities in bee balm heal mouth and throat infections, including gingivitis. Brew a strong bee balm tea by steeping leaves and flowers in hot water. Gargle with tea and rinse mouth with it several times a day.

13 Extraordinary Uses for Herbs

Lemongrass

This lemon scented herb makes a great rinse for dogs, after a bath. The compound that gives lemongrass its citrusy scent repels lice and ticks. Steep lemongrass leaves in hot water. Strain after cooling and pour over dog’s fur as a final rinse.

Sage

This aromatic herb has powerful antiseptic properties as well. Pour boiling water over sage leaves and let liquid cool. Strain and use sage water to bathe wounds, skin irritations and scrapes.

Fennell

Chew fennel seeds after a meal to freshen breath. Or prepare a weak fennel tea and use as a mouthwash.

Rosemary

For shiny healthy hair, free from dandruff, prepare a rosemary hair rinse. Pour boiling water over sprigs of fresh rosemary and steep for at least 30 minutes. Remove sprigs and allow rosemary water to cool. Pour over hair after shampooing.

13 Extraordinary Uses for Herbs

Extraordinarily Helpful Herbs

There are so many wonderful ways to incorporate herbs into daily life. I’ll be posting a series of articles with DIY recipes and ideas as the growing season gets underway.

Herbal essential oils are available and they are excellent to use. However, growing your own herbs is fun and the health benefits and household uses make them so beneficial. I am grateful for nature’s bounty and the goodness that grows in my herb garden.

13 Extraordinary Uses for Herbs

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Day 4: Bring Nature Indoors

Day 4 of the 7 Day Hygge Challenge was a great follow up for Day 3. The spring weather held and I was grateful for an excuse to be outside as I shopped for plants. More vignettes were assembled today as well as I moved spring from the front porch into the house.

Bring Nature Indoors

Thursday – Bring nature indoors

Being a gardener, I was excited about bringing new plants into the house today. In spite of the warm temps this week, it’s too early to be planting in the garden. I knew that for today’s hygge inspired activity, I wanted to incorporate living plants in my vignette. I’ve used cut flowers before, tulips or white daisies, in the vignette on my little dining room table. But today, I preferred living, growing plants that I can later transplant into my garden.

Bring Nature Indoors

As I did on the front porch, I cleared away the previous vignette and started with a fresh space. I love this vintage wooden sieve that I purchased several years ago at an antique shop. And I knew exactly what I wanted to place beneath the wire cloches…herbs.

Bring Nature Indoors

Bring Nature Indoors

I picked up a couple of small, but full, oregano plants. Each one fit perfectly within a small container that I then dropped into a bright yellow ceramic basket. They will get adequate light through the large windows in the dining room. When the ground is warm enough, I will transplant these oregano plants into the herb garden.

Into the wooden sieve went vintage Easter décor, made by Leta Moore when she took ceramic classes as a young woman. I deliberately left an open spot in the sieve, for purple hyacinths that I purchased today as well. After trying out several containers for the bulbs, and discarding them, I finally settled on two clay pots. I tucked two plants into the larger pot with the chippy white paint, and a single flowering bulb into the smaller whitewashed one.

Bring Nature Indoors

I liked the final results well enough. However, from the living room, an empty wooden box seemed to call to me. I was creating new vignettes on the entry table as well. I was curious to see how the potted hyacinths would look in that box that Greg had made for me.

As soon as I transferred the pots to the box, it felt absolutely right. That’s where the purple hyacinths in their pots belonged…here, not in the dining room. I learned during my Year of Journeys to go with the flow. I shifted and instead of creating one vignette that featured plants, I created two. When something clicks into place it is easy for me to complete my creative project, with little effort.

Bring Nature Indoors

Into this attractive wooden box went the potted purple hyacinths, a pair of metal birds, with chippy paint of their own, and a white pillar candle. I used a small terra cotta pot as a candle holder. Beneath the box is a little wool runner featuring spring tulips. My cousin Mindy, who passed away in 2015, hooked this piece. The flower pots have trays underneath that will protect both the box and the table runner.

I love how that little vignette looks, and how it came together, even though I wasn’t working on the entry table yet. As the hyacinths grow they will add height and color to the vignette. They too will be transplanted into the garden later.

Bring Nature Indoors

I filled the empty space in the wooden sieve with with a white footed bowl. Shirred cloth eggs, in soft pastel colors, are nestled within the bowl. And now I was pleased with this vignette. The colors within the sieve are harmonious and very spring-like, and the white plates with their herbs beneath cloches are nearby.

What fun to include these living plants in my vignettes today. As I cross the halfway mark in my hygge challenge week, I feel around me the coziness and connectedness that are this Scandinavian tradition’s hallmarks. It truly is a hygge spring.

Bring Nature Indoors

Summer Colors

Summer is about to begin! In a strange twist, the season shifts late this evening, or very early in the morning, depending on the time zone. Here in Joplin, in the US, summer officially begins tonight at 11:24 pm. Yes…after the sun goes down. No matter! Summer is upon us. 

It is a bit confusing whether today’s Summer Solstice was the longest day, or if tomorrow will get that designation. Either way, I was grateful for the extra minutes of sunlight, after a busy day. I needed to water the garden. 

Summer Colors
I simply adore being in the garden as the sun is setting. The heat evaporates out of the air. The colors are vivid. It truly is the most beautiful time to appreciate the flowers and plants. 

I’ve neglected my garden a bit lately. This is a busy time of year for realtors. I definitely need to pluck out some weeds and plant a few more flowers. However, does my garden hold a grudge? No. It is a wild and gorgeous thing right now, with brilliant colors erupting in the beds and containers and borders. The flowers do what they are created to do. They bloom…joyfully it seems. 

Summer Colors
Summer Colors
Summer Colors
As I watered containers, and pulled weeds, I allowed the wildness of the garden to call to me. Something untamed in me rose to answer that call. I too am doing what I am created to do, growing, blooming, offering who I am in response to life, and light, and roots that have gone deep. 

Summer Colors
Summer Colors
Summer Colors
Before the sun disappeared completely, my garden and I welcomed summer. I accepted the peace and contentment that washed over me. I marveled at the riotous colors that didn’t compete but complemented each other. I opened my heart to all the promises of the season. I expressed deep gratitude. 

Jenny Uglow wrote, “We might think we are nurturing our garden, but of course it’s our garden that is really nurturing us.”

My garden nurtured me tonight, on the eve of summer. As dusk deepened, I gathered fresh mint from the herb garden for a celebratory cup of tea. I toast you, golden summer. Welcome. 

Summer Colors

Day 281: Transplant Herbs on Bakers Rack to Garden

Fall garden 2

It was 80 degrees on this overcast day, yet there is no doubt that fall is here and cooler temperatures are coming. My backyard garden is in full splendor, alive with colors and textures, insects and frogs. I spend much time here, my heart and soul soothed and at the same time, expanded, by the peace and beauty in this space. I know with the first hard frost, the landscape of the garden will change. It is almost time to put my garden to sleep for the winter months. For my first today, I transplanted the herbs on the cheery yellow bakers rack, on the porch, to the garden.

Fall garden herb rack

This is my second year to have pots of fragrant herbs on the front porch. While waiting for the yard to be remediated last year, having the bakers rack full of green growing plants appeased my desire to be gardening. I enjoyed the rack so much that I repeated the experience this year, even though I planted an apothecary garden in the backyard. Last year, I wintered some of the herbs inside, and some I let die and tossed out after they became very leggy. This year, for the first time, I was able to move those potted herbs to a new home in the backyard, in the hopes they will reappear next spring.

Fall garden 4

I lugged back containers of rosemary, lavender, common sage and pineapple sage, basil and cinnamon basil, Italian oregano and lemon balm. Keeping to the apothecary section, the plants were lovingly placed into the ground, tucked among the mature plants stirring in the light breeze. As I worked, the heady scent of the herbs filled the air around me. I am so pleased with the way the garden filled in this year and look forward to seeing what it does next year!

Fall garden 3

A couple of weeks ago the big black kettle arrived from Arkansas and was placed in the herb garden as well. For fall, I’ve planted yellow mums in it. Next spring, I hope to find calendula plants to fill it. The kettle belonged to Greg’s grandmother and was given to Greg’s parents years ago. Dad Moore passed it on to me recently. There was an azalea bush in the kettle that I estimate to be at least 16 years old. I transplanted that bush into a partially shaded spot on the east side of the house, where it will get morning sun.

Fall garden black kettle 2

After I finished my planting, I walked around the garden snapping pics. The grasses have put up their plumes. I love ornamental grasses and the interest they add to the garden. I sat for a time, the breeze cooling me off. Dark clouds were massing to the west. We have three days of rain in the upcoming forecast. The newly transplanted herbs should thrive with the cloudy, rainy days. There is nothing else to add to the garden this year. Phase One has surpassed my dream. Next year, I will begin Phase Two. For now, I am simply enjoying. And that is enough.

Fall garden 6

Fall garden 5

Day 274: Drying Herbs From My Garden

Drying herbs in window e

My herb garden has matured so much since it was planted in the spring. The plants are lush and aromatic. I love walking through the garden and catching the scent of lemon balm, basil and lavender as the breeze stirs the plants. As fall brings the promise of cooler weather, it is time to begin harvesting the leaves. Today, for my first, I made a simple drying rack and began gathering herbs into bouquets to dry.

I love using herbs for occasional cooking. I don’t cook much except during the holidays and in the cooler months when I enjoy making chili and an assortment of soups. I especially enjoy dried herbs in making my own teas, potpourri and beauty products. I wanted an Apothecary garden to be a central part of the backyard garden. With such an abundance of healthy herbs, I intend to learn more uses for these versatile plants.

Drying herbs garden e

Today I gathered lemon balm, oregano, lavender, globe basil and regular basil, mint, thyme, lemon grass and Russian sage, fresh from the garden. I loved inhaling in the amazing scents as I snipped sprigs. Using a heavy string, I tied the herbs into bunches. In the spring, I had saved a couple of small bamboo trellises that two of my clematises came with. I knew I would find a use for them. This evening I repurposed them into a simple drying rack, tying the two together with more string. Greg secured four cup hooks above the kitchen sink for me and attached the makeshift drying rack to them, looping string around the rack and creating slipknots. I was impressed with the knots! He was a boyscout….I was a campfire girl. I focused more on making fire, I suppose!

After the rack was suspended above the sink, in front of the window, I attached each bunch of herbs, upside down. The air can circulate freely and dry the plants. After the herbs are thoroughly dried, I’ll crumble them up and store them in airtight containers. The herbs will preserve their flavor and aroma for a year. I’ll hang a thin curtain over the window tomorrow so the plants won’t get direct sun while they dry.

I stepped back and observed my work. What a thrill, to tuck those young plants into the ground last spring, nurture them and watch them grow, and now begin the drying process. In the past, I’ve bought dried herbs from a favorite health food store. Now I’ll have my own. I love that I have a relationship with these plants! As I use the herbs this fall and winter I’ll reflect back on their time in my sunny garden and the joy they have given to me. Next spring they will push up through the earth once more to grace me again with their presence. One lovely gift they offer now is that I won’t mind standing at the kitchen sink, washing dishes, with the fragrant herbs drying there. I might even start cooking early this fall so I’ll have an excuse to be in the kitchen!

Drying herbs named 2

Day 159: Apothecary Garden

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When a window of opportunity opened this morning, meaning my area was in between storm fronts, I leapt through it. According to the weather app on my phone, I had 2-3 hours before the next rain shower arrived. My first for today was to plant an apothecary garden.

This section of my garden evolved over the past few months. I had intentions of creating an herb garden. As I read about apothecary gardens, that intention morphed. Essentially, they are herb gardens, with a few additional plants that are useful for healing. As with the other sections in my backyard, this will be a garden in process that will continue to grow and adapt over the next few years.

The quiet and fragrant beauty of an apothecary garden and the peaceful activity of caring for it can be healing in itself. The purpose of such a garden is to deliver a healing harvest useful for teas, decoctions, salves and tinctures. I also use dried herbs and flowers to make my own potpourri and bath products. I am very interested in continuing to learn to use herbs and flowers to create other health and beauty products.

The first healers were herbalists and the first medicines plants. The apothecary garden is steeped in history. These gardens were first grown in the Middle Ages and cared for by monks who studied plants and their therapeutic uses. In later centuries, physicians maintained their own healing gardens and stillrooms for growing and preparing botanical medicines.

Today, I planted an assortment of herbs in my apothecary garden. I included Platinum Blonde Lavender and Silver Anouk Lavender, East Friesland Sage, Russian Sage, and Garden Sage, Peppermint, German Thyme, Greek Oregano, Garlic, Lemon Grass and Lemon Balm, and the Basils: Cinnamon, Purple, Spicy Globe, Sweet and Thai. There are several other plants I’m searching for, including calendula, feverfew, German Chamomile, comfrey, Apothecary rose and sweet violet. I’ll add a container of aloe. It can’t survive the cold, so must winter indoors. There is an empty space between the purple sage and the silver lavender that is saved for a large black cast iron kettle that Greg’s dad is giving me. I’m excited to bring that home and plant more herbs and flowers within it.

I loved creating this space today. The rain arrived before I finished and I spent the last two hours in a gentle shower. That was okay. The rain and I are friends, after all. Greg was a tremendous help, using his truck to bring in two loads of mulch. He removed grass from the section I was planting in and spread the mulch after carting it into the backyard with a wheelbarrow. Until the rain started, the cats cavorted about, checking out each new plant.

I left my contact lenses out this morning, which meant I could see well close up, but not at distances. That had the beautiful effect of bringing my vision to what was immediately before me. The world beyond my fences blurred out and could not claim my attention. What I focused on was digging in the rich moist dirt and setting the plants into the earth, envisioning what they would become, but willing to journey with them over the next months and years as they mature and fill in their allotted space. With water and sunshine, these herbs and flowers will become what they are so wonderfully created to be, offering their beauty, scent, leaves and blooms freely to me. What an amazing shared journey it will be.

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