Balm of Gilead is a time-honoured natural remedy made from poplar buds, The medicinal properties of the balsam poplar tree (Populus balsamifera) lie in the winter buds, and with this slow spring it’s not too late to collect them before the leaves arrive (you can still make the balm afterwards, but the medicinal properties are less.) The buds are upright, sticky, and covered with waxy resins that have disinfectant properties. Bees use the resin for propolis, a known antibiotic, for sealing their hives against winter and to keep out intruders. Humans gather the buds to be made into Balm of Gilead oil or salve, a balm with a long record of effective application for any kind of skin irritation, cuts, bruises, rashes and pimples.
To prepare Balm of Gilead oil: Place 1 part unwashed buds and 2 parts olive oil in a jar and put the jar in a double boiler and heat, keep the water just below the boiling point, steep the buds for about 1 hour. Strain through cheesecloth and cool, when cool add about 400 I.U. of vitamin E per 8 oz of oil – this keeps the oil from going rancid. Store in dark glass jars in a cool place. This makes a good massage oil, but you may wish to use sweet almond or fractionated coconut oil in place of olive oil.
To make a salve, add 1 part beeswax to 5 parts of the infused oil and return to the double boiler to melt the beeswax. Pour into clean tins or jars; allow to solidify before covering with lids. If the salve is too hard, melt with a little more oil, if it’s too liquid, melt with a little more beeswax.
Well, I was asked a couple of questions about companion gardening and although I knew a few plants that do well with most plants and provide a benefit, like the use of marigolds in your garden, a little research provided a greater insight..so, here it goes for some of our most common garden plants. Tomatoes will greatly benefit plants like carrots, beans, celery, cabbage, and roses…..
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Spring herbs – I’m always happy to see my little patch of stinging nettle every spring. The leaves decrease pain and act as a mild diuretic, accounting for their use in providing relief from allergies and arthritis. The young leaves, rich in iron, chlorophyll and vitamin C are excellent cooked as a vegetable. Once the leaves are cooked, they lose their sting, and you can drink the water for an extra boost. Herbalists use a strong infusion as a tonic for treating iron deficiency anemia. To keep your supply fresh, cut them back three or four times a year to encourage new growth, but the dried leaves can also be used to make an excellent tea – steep 1-2 tbsp dried leaves in 8 ounces of boiling water for 5-30 minutes. Strain, sweeten if desired and enjoy.
Lavender, it’s a good friend to have on the windowsill or in the garden, but Lavandula officinalis/Lavandula angustifolia is a herb we don’t give much thought to. Yet, for centuries it’s been used as a general tonic, sedative, antispasmodic, diuretic, and digestive aid. We use the tea and essential oil for insomnia, nervousness, fatigue, headaches, nausea, and a host of other complaints. Lavender is easy to grow in most climates. It doesn’t require a lot of water, likes full sun and well-drained soil. It will form fairly large bushes that can easily be made into a hedge. Harvest lavender as it blooms throughout the summer, and prune back by about a third each fall.
If you’re an avid gardener or athlete, this recipe is for you: Blend 2 drops rosemary essential oil, 1 drop lavender essential oil and 1 drop eucalyptus oil. (Avoid essential oils in pregnancy, and never take internally.) Add 4 teaspoons of sweet almond or sesame oil. Blend well. Apply to body, especially joints before going out to the gym or the garden. (Lavender makes a great athlete’s foot ointment, for the recipe, e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org) Donna, the herb lady