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Monday, March 26, 2012

Pure Loveliness and a Wild Class!

Good morning, All!  Can you believe how green the world around us has become in the last couple days.  Yes, 5-8 inches of rain sure helps, let's hope this rain continues throughout the summer!

Cousin Sandra is off to Austin to visit her sister and is missing Iris Season at the ranch.  So, some Iris photos and maybe a little Iris trivia!

But, before we continue on with Irises, I am very excited to announce a new class coming up in April.........
Plantain
Oops!  Not an Iris but will
be one of the plants we will
visit in the April class!

                                     
The Wild Side of Herbs

Wednesday, April 18, 2012
or
Saturday, April 21, 2012

2-4 pm...................$25.00 per person

Herbs are all around us, whether you live in the country or the city.  They are called weeds!  They are nutritious, full of good medicine, and very easy to find!

Come spend a fun spring afternoon at StarDragonfly Herbals, exploring for wild weeds.





     


We will  identify some common garden weeds.
Learn their nutritional and medicinal value.
Learn how to incorporate them into our daily life.
Go on a nature walk...not too strenuous, but do wear sensible shoes!
Have herbal tea and a snack or two.

Please call or email for information or reservations.
903-866-3606  or stdragonfly@yahoo.com

You might like to bring a camera, bug spray, notebook/pen and a walking stick!  We have Elderberry jelly and syrup, granola, fresh eggs, chicks, candied ginger, herbal teas and medicinals for sale.

This class should be fun!

Okay, now on to the beautiful Iris......................

The name Iris means rainbow in Greek.  It is quite an apt name, as irises come in all sorts of colors, such as blue, purple, white, yellow, lilac and even brown.








The Iris belongs to the Iridaceae family.  Another member of this family is the gorgeously scented freesia.


The Iris is the state flower of Tennessee.   It is also the national emblem of France.

Irises are relatively easy to grow, even for the most inexperienced of gardeners.

All information in purple comes from http://www.hotfact.com/iris-flower.html



This iris is actually a very pale green
with yellow accents!











                                            Wow!  Such loveliness!






This is another view of the
pale green Iris.


Columbine
Not related to an Iris
but beautiful in her own way!


















Once again, it is time to get on with the day!  Where ever you may be, I hope your Irises or something beautiful is blooming around you!  And that your world is as green as it is here in Northeast Texas!  From all of us at StarDragonfly Herbals....have a lovely day!  Herbally yours, Susan










The Bluebonnets are to Texas what the shamrock is to Ireland!
http://wwwstatesymbolusa.org/Texas/Flower_Bluebonnet.html
Madame Flamingo and the Bluebonnet Duet


















Monday, March 19, 2012

That Nightmare Named Insomnia!

This photo was taken the other morning....
I was sitting in the garden looking east.
"The woods are lovely, dark and deep.
But I have miles to go before I sleep."
Robert Frost
Good morning, did you sleep well last night?  I have been asked to help someone with insomnia.  Now remember, I am not a medical doctor.  So I cannot diagnosis or prescribe anything and according to the rules I sure cannot cure.  Well, whatever.

Insomnia

Insomnia can be classified as transient, acute or chronic.

1.  Transient insomnia lasts for less than a week.  
2.  Acute insomnia is the inability to consistently sleep well for a period of less than a month.
3.  Chronic insomnia lasts longer than a month.  Now transient and acute insomnia are frustrating and make you sooooo veeery tired, but chronic insomnia is when you start hallucinating, having double vision and start seeing things move around you in slow motion.  Yikes!

Now the thing with insomnia is that it can be caused by so many things.  Allergies, stress, location, temperature, medical issues, drugs, depression, etc., etc., etc.  So if you have not been sleeping well for just a short time or have off and on bouts of sleeplessness or as Cousin Sandra would say, "Get the rat that is racing around my brain to stop!" so you can calm your thoughts and have a wonderful nights of sleep, there are quite a few easy lifestyle changes and herbs that I can suggest.  If you have not slept well in over a month, the world around you is slowing down and your imagination is playing tricks on you.....well, I suggest you do get some medical advice.  That way you have a diagnosis, have ruled out other medical problems, then please come and see me or email me and we can look at some herbs and life style changes.

Dietary and Lifestyle Change Suggestions
chugginmccoffee.hubpages.com 

Okay, my first question to someone having trouble sleeping?  How much coffee, tea, sodas, and/or chocolate do you have on a daily basis?  I can already hear the groaning.  Sorry, folks, caffeine is a stimulant, has been and will always be.  Now it does have some benefits...that will be another post...but for now it could be interfering with your sleep.  The effects of caffeine can stay in your system for up to 20 hours.  If you can't sleep, try cutting back on caffeine...I realize stopping "cold turkey" isn't such a great alternative....but weaning yourself back slowly could really help you get to sleep.
          You could try:  
  • Decaf coffee or tea, and having no caffeine after noon,
  • herbal tea or an herbal combination of Valerian, Lemon balm, Chamomile, Hops, Passion flower, Scullcap, Catnip or Oats.  
Pineal Gland
photo by
http://www.theherbprof.com/vitMelatonin.htm 
Melatonin

"Melatonin and Sleep:  Melatonin is a hormone secreted by the pineal gland in the brain that helps regulate other hormones and maintains the body's circadian rhythm.  The circadian rhythm is an internal 24-hour time-keeping system that plays a critical role in determining when we fall asleep and when we wake up.  Darkness stimulates the production of melatonin while light suppresses its activity."http://www.theherbprof.com/vitMelatonin.htm 
  • suggested dose 1-3 mg of melatonin taken 1-2 hours before bedtime.
  • Sleep in a dark room.
  • Set an alarm clock and get out of bed at the same time every morning, no matter how you slept the night before.  Once normal sleep patterns are reestablished, most people find that they have no need for an alarm clock.
  • Avoid alcohol...yes, a small amount could make you feel sleepy, but it invariably disrupts deeper sleep cycles later. 
  • Some will tell you not to eat 3 hours before bedtime and others will tell you to have some carbs before bed.  So lets say....in the evening have a snack of turkey, bananas, figs, dates, yogurt, milk, tuna, and whole grain crackers or nut butter.  These foods are high in tryptophan, which promotes sleep.  Eating a grapefruit half at bedtime also helps.
  • Info with bullets came from the book, Prescriptions for Nutritional Healing by JaF. and Phyllis A. Balch
When I was a child and had trouble sleeping my mimaw told me she counted her blessings every night before she went to sleep.  I have found this to be a very good practice....makes me focus my thoughts on the good in my life instead of what I perceive is going wrong. So....
http://www.theherbprof.com/vitMelatonin.htm 
  • Learn to put worries out of your mind.  Count your blessings.
  • Keep the bedroom comfortable and quiet.  If too much quiet is the problem, try running a fan or playing a radio softly in the background.   
  • Take a warm bath before bed.  Add a couple drops Lavender Essential oil.  Or better yet, add some Lavender Bath Salts. Shut out the lights, light a candle, breath deeply the lovely Lavender aroma, read an inspirational book on peace or love.  Do this for 15-20 minutes.
There is so much information these days on natural "cures" for insomnia...and like any thing else, one source will tell you something different than another source.  But, sometimes getting back into a sleeping pattern is just a matter of a few simple changes.  So, let me see if I can give you a quick list things to try today......
1.  Skip the caffeine for the rest of the day.
2.  Take a walk in nature for at least an hour, sometime around mid afternoon.
3.  Make sure your bedroom is as you love it....comfy and cool.
4.  Eat a light supper, then have a carb rich snack before bedtime.
art.com
5.  Take some melatonin about an hour before bedtime.
6.  Take a bath, relax meditate, read a "peaceful" book, breath deeply.  Sip a cup of Chamomile tea (add a little honey and milk....yum!)
7.  Rub some Lavender essential oil on your temples.
8.  Make sure there is no light in your room.  
9.  Climb into bed....cut out the light, snuggle in, shut your eyes, now 
10. Count your blessings.  Things tend to look cheerier in the morning anyway.

As always, I hope this has helped.  And remember when using herbal remedies and changes in lifestyle....well, it isn't always a quick fix.

Also, I have all the herbs mentioned in this post except the Melatonin, which I am sure you can find locally.  Let me know if I can develop a "sleepy time" herbal tea or tincture for you, and/or make you some Lavender Bath Salts.  Until next time, sweet dreams and herbally yours, Susan


To achieve the impossible dream, try going to sleep
Joan Klempner

Dreaming of Flowers
by
Rebecca Merry


Monday, March 12, 2012

Cilantrophobia!

Cilantrophobia!
To mention you hate cilantro in mixed company,
which is to say any company really, is to
immediately incur the fierce judgment and opposition
of many.

drawing and quote from:

ihatecilantro.wordpress.com


Good morning, All.  If you were able to make it to Mineola, Texas for the Wood County Master Gardener event....well, you will know as well I that it was quite successful, lots of folks getting ready for spring planting!  I shared a booth with Nancy and Carl of Falster Farm.  They raise miniature Herefords and are representatives of the Weston A. Price Foundation for Wise Traditions in Food, Farming, and the Healing Arts which we will talk about on another post.

And if you have run across me at the Farmer's Market or the Master Gardener booth, you know I love to talk about herbs and herbal healing and using herbs for nutrition, and so on and so forth.  Oh, and if I get carried away and you just stopped by for a quick purchase, but you would like to talk about herbs and herbal healing and using herbs for nutrition, and so on and so forth, please know you can make an appointment with me and come on out to the ranch for a cup of tea.

Okay, now back to business.....Cilantrophobia?  Yes, where ever I may appear with my herbs and herbal concoctions, people love to ask me questions.  One of the questions I have been asked lately is about Cilantro and why does the dadgum stuff bolt (flower) so quickly.  Well, folks, Cilantro will go to flower as soon as the temperature gets about 75 degrees.  I have tried for years to get cilantro to grow during the summer.  What I suggest to people is to plant seeds every 2 weeks.  You will get a small growth of the green stuff before it bolts, if you want it during the summer which most folks do.  And don't worry about planting it in pretty rows.  Plant it in amongst the flowers, try it in partial shade, or plant it at random among the veggies.  Okay, so for a couple weeks you put it in every 2 weeks, now you have done better than I have.

Let me tell you what happened to me and my Cilantro this year.  I had a beautiful crop of Cilantro that was just insistent on becoming Coriander seeds (the by product of Cilantro) which in itself is not a bad thing.  I kept cutting the plants back, then in November I was called away for an 8 week pet sit. Well the garden basically went unattended.....until one day, I was wandering around what was still green and Lo and Behold a whole raised bed full of baby Cilantro plants!

We have eaten Cilantro all winter!  Tons of it!  And since last week the temps got up to the 80's, yes, the plants are now sending up flower stalks.  Morale of this story?  If you want Coriander seeds (which are delicious ground on anything that sits still long enough for you to put it on) grow Cilantro during the summer and let it bolt.  Then let all those lovely, delicious seeds dry on the plant.  Put the dried coriander seeds in a peppercorn grinder and use like you would ground pepper.  If you want the fresh Cilantro leaves, well, grow it all winter here in the South.  And now you can make Cilantro pesto or Chimichurri Sauce from those leaves.  Freeze fresh cilantro, leftover sauce or pesto in ice cube trays to be used later.

Cilantro Pesto (Rexanne Meaux, Texas Coop Power magazine)
2 Cloves garlic
6 oz. grated Parmesan cheese (I leave this out)
2 Cups fresh Cilantro, hard packed
1/2 cup olive oil  (I don't use this much oil, I kinda just "eyeball" it!)
1/2 cup chopped toasted walnuts (I leave this out, maybe substitute sun dried tomatoes)
1 teaspoon pepper flakes
1/4-1/2 teaspoon salt

Puree all ingredients in food processor until it reaches the consistency of a sauce.  Transfer to a bowl.  Pesto will keep in an airtight container in frig for up to 3 days.

This is the recipe I prefer!

Chimichurri Sauce (Ellie Krieger So Easy)

1/3 cup packed fresh cilantro (I have used frozen, too)
1/3 cup packed fresh Italian parsley (or curly or chickweed, whatever green you have works)
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 large garlic clove
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar (I also use the vinegar off the canned banana peppers or jalapenos)
1 tablespoon water
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1/2 teaspoon salt

Puree all ingredients in food processor until it reaches the consistency of a sauce.  Transfer to a bowl.  Sauce will keep in an airtight container in frig for up to 3 days.

We use this sauce on steak, hamburgers, veggie burgers, chicken, tacos, eggs, and veggies.  In other words, just about everything!
This photo is titled "Julia sans chicken",
but I rather think she is telling some
poor cilantro lover exactly what
she would do with that nasty
Cilantro they put in her salad.
Dear Julia was like that you know....
photo borrowed from
bishsbeat.blogspot.com

And if you have Cilantrophobia.....well, substitute Parsley or any other mild green herb in the above recipes.

Now for those of you who HATE cilantro, well, you are in good company.  The esteemed Chef Julia Child said she would pick cilantro out of her food and throw it on the floor if served food containing the stuff.  Josh from National Public Radio had these quotes from his program...."It has that same sort of acrid sweetness of death,"  according to my friend Jason.  "It's got this evilness to it," my friend Wendy concurs."  Yikes!

"Scientists believe that people's preference for or, alternatively extreme dislike of cilantro may actually be genetically determined.  What's more:  People who hate cilantro may, in fact, have a mutated gene.  Here's Charles J. Wysocki, a scientist who's been studying the polarizing nature of the green herb, attempting to explain why some people detest it so strongly;

What we think might be happening is the person who hates cilantro is, in fact, detecting the soapy odor.   But what they seem to be missing is the nice, aromatic, green component....It's possible that they have a mutated or even an absent receptor gene for the receptor protein that would interact with the very pleasant smelling compound."
estir.cafemom.com/food_party/12704/people_who_hate_cilantro_areth

Okay, all you folks who cannot stand Cilantro, if some well meaning Cilantro lover gives you that "What planet are you from look," when you say "Ahhh, please don't put that green stuff on my food!"  You can tell them "I am genetically predisposed to hate the stuff."  Then you can really enjoy the "deer in the headlights" look they are going to give you!

Enough for today!  I hope where ever you may be the weather is as beautiful as it is here in Texas today!  If you can, get outside, go for a walk, take the dog, he/she will love it!  If you have kids or grandkids or adopted grandkids, take them outside!  Enjoy the day, Susan

There is something about the outside of a horse that is good for the inside of a man.
Sir Winston Churchill

Cash and Redman
These two feel in love at first sight!

Monday, March 5, 2012

The Shinrin-Yoku Therapy or I'm go'in hike'n in the woods

If you study the rock in this photo
the roots look like long fingers holding it
in place!    For some perspective,
the rock is about the size of a small desk!
Good morning, All!  This week I came across an article in the Spring 2012 Herb Quarterly magazine.  The little article written by Barbara MacPherson is titled Shinrin-Yoku.  Shinrin-Yoku is Japanese for the term "Forest Bathing".  Sounds odd, I know, but it literally means exercising such as walking in a forest.  Here in this part of Texas we would just refer to that as "I'm go'in hike'n in the woods" but please, stick with me because this is interest'in!

Have you ever had these experiences where you just know something, don't know why you know the something or sometimes you don't even know exactly what it is you know, but it is just that "gut feeling" that can't quite be put into words?  And when you come across an article, a conversation or a book that talks about the very thing you "knew instinctively", you think, "Oh My Good Gravy!", I really am not crazy!"  Well, this was how I reacted to the MacPherson article on Shinrin-Yoku.  Let me share with you some of the research I did this week!

This paper reviews previous research on the physiological effects of Shinrin-yoku (taking in the forest atmosphere or forest bathing), and presents new results from field experiments conducted in 24 forests across Japan.  The term Shinrin-yoku was coined by the Japanese Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry, and Fisheries in 1982, and can be defined as making contact with or taking in the atmosphere of the forest.  In order to clarify the physiological effects of Shinrin-yoku, we conducted field experiments in 24 forests across Japan.  In each experiment, 12 subjects (280 total; ages 21.7 +/-1.5 year) walked in and viewed a forest or city area.  On the first day, six subjects were sent to a forest area, and the others to a city area.  On the second day, each group was sent to the other area as a cross-check.  Salivary cortisol, blood pressure, pulse rate, and heart rate variability were used as indices.  These indices were measured in the morning at the accommodation facility before breakfast and also both before and after the walking (for 16 +/-5 min) and viewing (for 14 +/-2 min).  The R-R interval was also measured during the walking and viewing periods.  The results show that forest environments promote lower concentrations of cortisol, lower pulse rate, lower blood pressure, greater parasympathetic nerve activity, and lower sympathetic nerve activity that do city environments.  The results will contribute to the development of a research field dedicated to forest medicine, which may be used as a strategy for preventive medicine.

If you would like to read the paper this review has been take from please go to:
The physiological effects of Shinrin-yoku (taking in the forest....
www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19568835

Not only is Chi,Head of Ranch Security,
she is a Shinrin-yoku Master!
See another doggie devote at
fromsophiesview.blogspot.com

For those who know me well, they know that my greatest love besides Chi, Cousin Sandra and L is to walk in the woods and look for wildflowers.  I need to be outside.....ask Cousin Sandra, who on many occasions when Cousin Susan has been grumpy, irritable, anxious or any number of negative emotions has said "Please, go for a walk or go work in the garden!"  knowing that I will come back in a much better frame of mind.  So, today, make an effort, for your health and sanity to spend some time in the woods, a park or a garden.  Walk awhile, sit quietly awhile.  Lean against a tree, breath deeply, find a wildflower.  Don't pick it, let it grow, remember where it is growing, and come back and visit again.  Now, don't you feel better?

I will leave you this week with a wildflower and a recipe.
White Dogtooth Violet Erythromium albidum

This White Dogtooth Violet
Erythromium albidum
at the end of life cycle
This plant is also called Trout Lily in reference to the spotted or mottled leaves resembling a trout.
hankinslawrenceimages.wordpres
Various eastern tribes made medicines from this plant, including a root poultice to reduce swelling, a leaf poultice for ulcers, and a root tea for fevers.  They also used both fresh and dried leaves as an expectorant. Wildflowers of Texas by Ajilvsgi  An expectorant herb makes you cough or spit.
This information is from www.naturalmedicinalherbs.net....and once again I shake my head in wonder at the following contradictions.  "All parts of the plant, but  especially the bulb and the fresh leaves, are strongly emetic and are not used internally.  (Emetic means it will most likely make you vomit violently. )  The fresh leaves are also antiscrofulatic (which means it counteracts scrofula, a tuberculous infection of the lymph nodes in the neck)  and emollient and are used as an infusion or stimulating poultice applied to swelling, tumours and scrofulous ulcers.  The juice from crushed leaves has been applied to wounds that are not healing.  A poultice of the crushed bulbs has been applied to swellings and to help remove splinters.  The raw plant, excluding the roots, has been used by native North American young girls to prevent conceptions.  Then this site goes on to say ... Bulb-raw or cooked.  Crisp, chewy and very pleasant taste.  The bulb is up to 25mm long and is buried quite deeply in the soil.  Leaves-raw or cooked.  Added to salads. (Probably not going to add this to the salad tonight!)  Eating the leaves will greatly reduce the vigour of the bulb, so can only be recommended in times of emergency.  Flowers, flower buds and flower stems-raw or cooked.  Honestly, there were other lovely plants growing in the woods that can be eaten quite safely...such as Chickweed.  So once again I will skip the Trout Lilly as a side dish until I learn more about this beautiful plant.
                                                                                    And now the recipe......
This was our supper last night.  A salad from the garden with fresh boiled Bantam chicken eggs and homemade Sourdough whole wheat bread. We didn't have a whole lot of lettuce in the garden, so I supplemented with:
Chickweed,
Arugula,
Garlic Chives,
Violet leaves and flowers (not the Trout Lilly!)
Dandelions leaves and
Broccoli


I have been making my own salad dressings and it really is so easy.....




Sister Susan's Salad Dressing


1/8 cup Apple Cider Vinegar
1/4 Cup Olive Oil
1/4 cup jelly or jam (I used Blackberry Jam)
1/2 tsp. StarDragonfly Herbals Season Salt


That's it, now whirl it all up in the blender and viola, yummy homemade salad dressing or veggie dip.



March 10th  The Wood County Master Gardener Annual Spring Conference will be held at the Mineola Civic Center from 8AM until noon.  The theme of the conference this year will be "Today's Garden, Tomorrow's Food".   If you live in Northeast Texas and you love plants and gardening, I highly recommend you attend this conference.  There should be a lot of interesting speakers and information.  The Winnsboro Farmer's Market will have a booth and I will be sharing a booth with Nancy of Falster Farms.  Hope to see you there or if you read the blog and we have never met, please introduce yourself.  I will be the gal under the cowboy hat!  Herbally, Susan

Above all, do not lose your desire to walk.  Every day I walk myself into a state of well-being and walk away from every illness.  I have walked myself into my best thoughts, and I know of no thought so burdensome that one cannot walk away from it.

Soren Kierkegaard

I love how the Moon seems
to be sitting on the branch!