Consider Giving the Gift of Herbs This Christmas

Herbs are always a welcome gift that will make good use of your stash of home grown or purchased herbs and spices. Try making batches of some of these herb blends to give away. Use decorative jars, and make your own printed labels:

Chicken Herb Blend


Sage is Good for More Than Stuffing

You may have been introduced to sage via your spice cabinet, but it was an herbal remedy long before it became popular for culinary use. Sage was a medicinal go-to herb for the ancient Greeks and Romans, and it's been used as an antibacterial agent and to promote soft tissue healing for centuries across Europe and in the U.S.

 Sage In Your Medicine Cabinet

Sage is a natural antiseptic and antibacterial that contains, among other things: borneol, camphor, cineole, flavonoids, linalool, pinene, salvene, tannis thujone.

A sage infusion (like a gargle or tea) can help reduce discomfort and irritations in the mouth: gums, tonsils or throat. It may also help clear a stuffy nose.

A poultice of sage can speed wound healing.

Sage tea may be effective in treating mild headaches and restlessness (as in not being able to relax because of racing thoughts -- lavender and sage tea work really well for this btw).

There are a number of studies currently being conducted to evaluate sage's usefulness in treating Type II diabetes.

Sage helps the body digest fats, so if you're planning on indulging (ice cream, steak, spareribs, fettuccini Alfredo), drink a cup of sage tea soon afterward.

Sage may encourage muscle contractions in the uterus, so avoid using it medicinally if you're pregnant.

Sage can Help Reduce Menopausal Symptoms

Sage is a natural source of estrogen and can be a big help in combating menopausal symptoms. I have suffered from night sweats for a while now, and have tried to avoid HRT (hormone replacement therapy). Sage is an easy way to add natural estrogen-like chemicals to your system and provide some relief. Even burning a sage aromatherapy candle can help.
Sage For Night SweatsIf you suffer from night sweats, increasing the amount of flax seed and soy in your diet, taking a soothing bath to which you have added essential oil of lavender, and exercising moderately a few hours before bedtime can also reduce your symptoms.

If you get some relief with sage aromatherapy or tea, common sage is easy to grow in a sunny, well drained location. It is also dries well and produces a reliable crop of leaves for me every year.

More Information about Sage

You can find more information about uses for sage in my post:
Sage Tips and Facts


Holiday Note from the Herb Gardener: If you are a lover of the environment, please consider going green this Christmas by sending e-cards, buying wrapping paper made from recycled stock, and conserving energy this holiday season. Teach a young person the value of being eco-conscious, and give a gift that will benefit all of us in the years to come.


Sweet Woodruff is a Delicate Addition to Your Garden

Woodruff Ground Cover Sweet Woodruff is a beautiful little herb with delicate leaves that grow in tight whorls. It makes an attractive groundcover, and has the reputation of being invasive, but it's shallow rooted so easily kept in check. It grows best in shade, but will tolerate a sunny spot if kept moist. It makes a nice presentation under a larger shrub like a hydrangea. It’s also a natural for your azalea bed. Sweet Woodruff likes acidic soil, and responds well if mulched with garden leaves in the fall.

Woodruff tastes a bit like a mixture of cinnamon and chamomile, and its leaves have traditionally been added to Rhine and May wines as a sweet flavoring. Try adding two large sprigs of woodruff to two cups of white wine, then add two tablespoons of honey and leave the mixture for at least a day. Drink it over ice or as a spritzer.
Woodruff is also a favorite ingredient in potpourri, and it can be added to dried wreaths and swags. For a sweet smelling insect repellent, make sachets of sweet woodruff to place with stored linen. Woodruff can also add fragrance to your bath.


Natural Pain Relief From White Willow Bark

Natural Asprin Relief Willow bark has been used as a medicinal herb for thousands of years and has chemical properties that are being tested for their immune boosting, antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and pain reducing capabilities. It is widely known as the aspirin herb, because it contains salicin, an aspirin like chemical.

The use of willow bark for the treatment of pain and inflammation has been traced back to 400 BC, and it is sold today as a natural herbal remedy for headache, lower back pain, fever, and arthritis. It is also sometimes recommended for flu, bursitis, and menstrual cramps. Although it shares many characteristics in common with aspirin and has many of aspirin’s side effects, it may have advantages over aspirin in that its effects may be more long lasting.

White willow is commonly known as European willow, a deciduous tree found in North America, Asia, and Europe.

How Do you Take White Willow Bark

Willow bark is available in capsule form and loose for infusions in tea. For a medicinal tea, boil one to two teaspoons of bark in eight ounces of water and let steep for ten minutes.

When You Shouldn't Take White Willow Bark

White willow bark is not recommended if you are under 16, pregnant, or nursing. Any change in medication should be discussed with your physician.

White Willow Bark and Your Pets

Although aspirin and white willow bark are poisonous to your cat, there are instances where white willow bark has been used successfully as a pain treatment for dogs. Follow the link for more information: Willow Bark and Your Pets.

As with any medication, consult your veterinarian before attempting to diagnose or treat your dog.

Historical Reference to Willow

In the 1600s Culpepper advocated willow bark for a number of ailments: "to stanch bleeding of wounds, and at mouth and nose, spitting of blood, and other fluxes of blood in both man and woman, and to stay vomiting..." He promised it would keep one thin, remove warts, and cure "dandriff", and also that it "stays the heat of lust in man or woman, and quite extinguishes it, if it long be used," and that if one boils the leaves or bark in wine, he might "drink as much as you will, so you drink yourself not drunk."

Modern medicine discounts many of these claims.

Note: Common Poisons and Your Pets

While we are talking about pets, please remember that any aspirin-like substance can kill your cat, and chocolate, onions, avocado and macadamia nuts are toxic to your dog. Please be careful so your pets can be healthy members of your family for many years.


Grow Aloe Vera and Have Its Healing Properties at Your Fingertips

How To Propagate Aloe Vera I just brought my aloe vera plants indoors for the winter. I bring them in before the first frost and leave them in a westerly facing window until spring. I only water two to three times during winter, and put them back out again at the end of April. I've been doing this for about the last eight years.

Uses for Aloe Vera

Sure, we all know about how great aloe vera is for healing and reducing the pain of burns, but did you know it is often one of the main ingredients in blemish creams, it can be used on the feet to reduce the odor caused by bacteria, and it can reduce scarring?

Try rubbing the juice from a freshly sliced leaf onto a new scar every other day. The results can be amazing.

It helps grow and repair skin cells as well as being an anti-bacterial agent and painkiller. It has been effective in treating dandruff, genital herpes, and psoriasis (vulgaris). Visit the Mayo Clinic website for additional information on current study results.

Other uses that haven’t been so well documented include treating ear infections in animals, hair loss, and frostbite.

If you want to try to use aloe vera as a treatment for acne or minor skin irritations, use the pulpy interior of the leaf. The gelatinous substance in the leaf oxidizes quickly, so use it within an hour or so of cutting it. Before trying any treatment using aloe vera, make sure that any burns, cuts, or blemishes have been thoroughly cleaned. Swab the area and then cover with a band-aid or bandage.

Aloe Vera Growing Tips

Don’t be too concerned about the plant. Harvesting a leaf now and then won’t cause a problem. If you only want a small amount of pulp, small cuts in leaves will heal but do leave a noticeable mark. Aloe vera is easy to root and grow. Small plants develop in rosettes around the mother plant and can easily be removed and repotted in sandy soil.


Get Natural Relief From a Cold or the Flu

Natural Cold Medicine ‘Tis the season to sniff and cough, and when the inevitable cold or flu comes calling, you are going to be looking for fast relief. Before you run to the pharmacy, check your kitchen cupboard for useful and inexpensive remedies.


Inhale the steam from a strong cup of camomile tea to open nasal passages, and add lemon to beverages to take advantage of its antibacterial properties.

Fresh ginger shredded in boiling water and allowed to steep for ten minutes will help you fight your cold and clear your sinuses.

Sooth a Sore Throat With Herbs

A little honey in hot apple juice that's been seasoned with cinnamon and cloves makes a soothing throat balm, and sage makes a great gargle for a sore throat.

Natural Herbal Cough Remedy

If you have a cough that just won't go away, make a cough syrup mixture of thyme mixed with honey or brown sugar. Boil a half a cup of water mixed with four tablespoons of honey or brown sugar, and a tablespoon of thyme. Let the mixture cool and strain. Use as needed.


If you are suffering from the aches and pains of the flu, take a hot bath in which you have dropped a sachet of four teaspoons of rosemary tied in three layers of cheesecloth. The piney scent will help clear your sinuses while the rosemary relieves your aches and pains. This concoction will help you get to sleep, too.

Don’t Forget Garlic for Your Cold

Garlic can help prevent colds and reduce their severity. Containing allicin, garlic has strong antibiotic properties that make it a favorite herbal treatment. Try drinking a glass of hot milk to which you have added three minced garlic cloves. I know this sounds terrible, but if you can stand it, it'll really help make you feel better.

Preventive Maintenance

If you want to do a little preventive maintenance, remember the benefits of taking garlic and echinacea supplements to build up your immune system before you get sick.

When you use natural herbal treatments for colds and the flu, you know what you are putting in your body. Try one or two of them the next time you or someone in your family feels a cold coming on.