Friday

How to Make Dandelion Oil

If you have an achy back or inflammation from arthritis, dandelion oil may be able to help with pain control. When applied topically, it can reduce inflammation and joint pain. Although there hasn't been much research to confirm the efficacy of dandelion as an anti-inflammatory, folks have been making and using this herbal remedy for a long time. When I'm looking for a gentle, safe way to help manage minor arthritis pain, especially in my hands, dandelion oil rates high on my list of remedies, and usually makes it to my spring "make it soon" to-do list.

Well, the dandelions are up, and this could be one year you're harvesting them instead of cursing those yellow flowers dotting your lawn. Dandelion oil is a no-cook recipe that's a good spring introduction to preparing homemade herbal remedies.

Bowl of fresh dandelions

Dandelion Oil Recipe


Ingredients

8 to 10 ounces of olive or avocado oil
*7 cups dandelion flowers

You will also need:


2 clean 12 oz. jars (I use the sanitize setting on my dishwasher, but you can also use hot soapy water.)

2 rubber bands (I like those small but mighty ones that often come with fresh asparagus or broccoli from the produce department of the local market.)

A stick or other implement for stirring

Cheesecloth (You'll need a two-layer square for each jar large enough to cover the opening with a 2 inch overhang all around.)


Instructions


Harvest dandelions in the morning when they're full open.

Rinse them gently in cold water.

Drying rinsed dandelions
Spread them on a paper towel out of the sun to dry for a few hours.

Once the water has evaporated, tear half to all of the flowering heads in half. This helps the oil get deep into the petals. (You can tear them all if you want, but a few intact blooms look so pretty in the mix that I usually leave them. Although the flowers are eventually discarded, when the mixture is fresh, it looks like spring in a jar.)

Fill the two jars with blossoms, pressing hard to pack them tight.
Pack the jar tight

Slowly, fill each jar with oil, stopping halfway to stir the mixture to release trapped air bubbles.
Add oil


Fill the jars to the top.

I use a kabob skewer for stirring


Stir again to remove as many bubbles as possible, making sure to submerge the top blooms.
You can just see suspended bubbles. Gentle stirring will remove them.


Cover the mouth of each jar with cheesecloth, and secure the cloth with a rubber band.



Place the jars in a sunny window, and let the mixture infuse for three weeks or so. (You'll know when the oil is ready because the blossoms will lose their bright yellow color and turn tan to brown.

Attached cheesecloth and place jars in a sunny window
Strain the oil using a fine mesh strainer lined with a couple of layers of cheese cloth.

Store the bulk of the mixture in the refrigerator, but fill one or two small glass jars (1 oz. or so) to use at room temperature. Refill them as needed. (Recycled moisturizer jars or even sample jam jars are good for this.)

How to Use Dandelion Oil


**When your joints feel achy, or you know damp weather is on the way, apply a little oil to a cotton ball and rub on your knees, hands, neck, back or other affected area. Wipe off any excess. Store the container in a dark, somewhat cool location. (Don't keep it in the sun or near heat.)

Safety and other info: Although dandelion is considered safe to eat, and generally safe in higher concentrations, there are some exceptions. It's always a good idea to discuss starting any new treatment or medication with your physician. Because the effects of dandelion haven’t been tested extensively, using it is contraindicated if you are pregnant or nursing. It is not recommended if you are allergic to ragweed, chrysanthemums and some other flower varieties, are diabetic or have gallbladder problems. It may also react with some medications, like some antibiotics, blood thinners, lithium and other drugs, especially those that are changed by the liver. You can find additional safety information about dandelion here:

 

Tips for Making and Using Dandelion Oil


*Harvest dandelions you know haven't been treated with pesticide. This could be courtesy of your happily neglected backyard or another spot that's in jeopardy of going native. I have plenty of dandelions for oil, tea and even dandelion jam. I don't feel too guilty about growing these useful weeds, either. I harvest the heads before they have a chance to go to seed, and dig up most of my plants for the roots. My spring harvest every year is typically courtesy of unwitting neighbors sprouting crops in their tree lawns. Oh, there are cultivated varieties, too. You can read more about dandelions here: How to Grow Dandelion

I keep dandelion oil from season to season, so the oil I started today will last until next spring when I'll toss any remainder and begin a new batch.

You can make half of the recipe. Although one jar looks like it will produce quite a bit of oil, you'll only get 3 to 4 ounces or so. Once you realize how useful it can be, the oil goes pretty quickly, too.

Dandelions aren't in flower long, so expect to make oil within two weeks of seeing blossoms.

If you have to hunt around to find enough flowers, you can keep snipped blossoms in a covered bowl in your fridge for a couple of days. They draw in somewhat, but just make sure you slice those blossoms to get the best oil exposure from them.

Dandelion oil is green and can stain clothing, so use caution.

This oil may have other applications. I've read about it being used to treat acne, for instance. I haven't used it for anything other than mild muscle and joint discomfort, though.

 **I know there may not be a link between inflammation and the weather, but I do get achy when it's damp, and the oil seems to help.




Saturday

Planting Lavender in the Garden

Planting lavender is a nice way to start an herb garden. Lavender is one of those magical herbs that seem to invoke images of a more gracious time. Think of ladies walking through cottage gardens with baskets of herbs and flowers, or garden parties on miles of groomed lawn where water sparkles in nearby fountains and stone birdbaths. In these idylls, lavender is everywhere, and attended to diligently by busy bees that never sting.

Growing lavender in your garden can be another matter, especially if you don't have a full time gardener, and the part time gardener in your universe is you. If you want to grow lavender, keep these things in mind, especially if you haven't had much success in the past.


Foolproof Tips for Planting Lavender

English_Lavender (Lavandula angustifolia),Hidcote

Prefer young plants to planting seeds - Lavender seed is slow to germinate (think 2 to 4 weeks, if then), and the sprouts are small and delicate (needy). You'll have much better success choosing a variety you like (there are lots to choose from, but that's a different post), and taking cuttings to create clones. You can do this pretty easily, especially with an inexpensive cloner, and the process is less frustrating than dealing with lavender seed.

Sun and soil - This plant likes full sun and moderately rich soil. It can stand drought conditions, but only after it's established. For the first year, baby young lavender plants by making sure they don't dry out, and if high summer brings punishing heat, provide a little shade.

Dig a big hole - Lavender can send out an impressive network of roots, so give it a large, deep hole. I'm not going to get too specific, but whatever hole you think is large enough, make it half again larger and deeper.

Pay attention to soil depth and consistency - Once you have a few plants, prep your soil carefully. Lavender needs good drainage. Let me say it again for emphasis: Lavender needs GOOD DRAINAGE. Sorry for the yelling, but nothing kills a nice lavender plant faster than wet roots. You can increase your chances of succeeding with this herb by making sure you give it the right soil.

I've written "provide soil that drains well" at least a hundred times on plant posts and in articles, but this time take it as gospel. Most gardens have clay soil, which can be a death sentence for lavender. Add sand, perlite, vermiculite, pot shards, pea gravel or pebbles, but make sure lavender's roots don't stay wet after watering or a good rain. Another option would be to plant on a hill or gentle slope that has good drainage naturally. You will still have to add loosening agents to the soil, but some of the work will be done for you and will act as added insurance.  If you can't easily crumble and flip the soil in the planting hole you're using for lavender, it isn't porous enough.

Wait for warmer weather - Lavender really takes off when the soil warms up in spring. If you're trying seeds or have seedlings from your grower ready to go, keeping them on a heated plant mat will make them happier, as will transplanting them about a week after you install your tomato plants, which should be after the frost free date for your area.

Spanish Lavender (Lavendula Stoechas)  - Also known as French lavender
Air flow can be important, too - Placing plants where there's a breeze but no major buffeting will help insure good air circulation and less chance of mildew growth. You can help this along by keeping plants pruned with a somewhat open shape. Since every part of the plant smells wonderful, pruning shouldn't be a problem. If all else fails, add snipped stems to potpourri.

Give lavender room -  Most lavender varieties can grow to a height of between 14 to 32 inches and reach 14 to 32 inches across. Check the listing on the plants you purchase for a better idea of how large they'll grow. Crowded plants become stressed and are more susceptible to mildew, insect predation and all manner of diseases. Thin seedlings to allow plenty of space between plants: This is important because it encourages good air flow, too.

Humidity can be the enemy - Lavender plants need water, sure, but excess moisture and sometimes even high humidity can be a problem. If you live in a humid location, there are lavender cultivars that are more tolerant of muggy summer days, and your best option is to stick with them. Phenomenal (Lavandula x intermedia, Phenomenal) is one of the more popular, but every year sees new hybrids designed for heat, cold, moisture and pest resistance, so check your seed and plant catalogs for what available this season.

Water wisely - It also helps to water plants in the morning, not in the evening or during the hottest part of the day.

Once established, lavender is pretty hardy, so it won't be a prima donna in the years to come. For the first year or so, though, give it special attention. You'll read that lavender is a pretty indestructible, and that can be true if the above conditions are met. With this classic herb, good prep is the secret to great plants. Planting lavender and cultivating a nice bed of purple blooms can be fun and rewarding. Give it a try.

Photo Credits

Photo 1 - LavenderField  PUBLIC DOMAIN By Dripping artist (Own work) [CC0], via Wikimedia Commons http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File%3ALavendel100%25.JPG http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/b/b0/Lavendel100%25.JPG

Photo 2 - 450px-Lavandula_angustifolia_'Hidcote'_'English_Lavender'_(Labiatae)_flower_Wiki.JPG  By Magnus Manske (Own work) [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/a/ae/Lavandula_angustifolia_%27Hidcote%27_%27English_Lavender%27_%28Labiatae%29_flower.JPG http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File%3ALavandula_angustifolia_'Hidcote'_'English_Lavender'_(Labiatae)_flower.JPG

Photo 3 - SpanishLavender_Wiki.jpg By Jean-Pol GRANDMONT (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0), GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC BY 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/b/bc/Lavandula_stoechas_JPG1b.jpg http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File%3ALavandula_stoechas_JPG1b.jpg