Mind & Spirit

Healthy herbal gift ideas

Author: Canadian Living

Mind & Spirit

Healthy herbal gift ideas

Show presents of mind with gifts that soothe the body, nourish the mind and heal the spirit.

Parsley, Sage, Rosemary and Time
By Mary Malone

Indoor herb gardens as gifts to loved ones require little of your time but the benefits are bountiful: plant some feverfew for your friend who suffers from headaches, perk-me-up rosemary for the tired parent of a toddler, calming chamomile and lemon balm for just about anyone...

Healing herbs have been the basis of medicinal care for thousands of years. Below is a list of ones that are easy to grow in Canada. Although most are perennials that need plenty of sun, moisture and rich soil, some, such as feverfew, mullein and yarrow will grow almost anywhere. Use herbs fresh or dried. To dry, hang in bunches in a cool airy place. To make herbal teas, use one teaspoon of dry leaves or flowers (or two teaspoons fresh) per cup of boiling water. Consult reference books for more details. Don't assume that more is better; some herbs can be toxic if overused.

Lemon Balm
Lemon balm is one of the safest herbs. Use the leaves to make a tea (hot or iced) that is said to calm the nerves and relieve anxiety, sleeplessness and menstrual cramps. Application of fresh leaves takes the sting out of insect bites.

Feverfew
Sweet-smelling feverfew used to be called the "woman's herb" for its benefits in regulating menstrual problems and infertility. New British studies have shown that eating three to five fresh leaves every day is very effective in preventing or reducing recurrent migraine headaches.

Fennel
The licorice-tasting leaves act as an appetite suppressant. Tea made with the whole plant is thought to relieve colic, stomach upsets, flatulence and other intestinal problems. Sprinkle fennel on dishes that include gaseous foods.

Yarrow
A cup of yarrow leaf tea may help relieve indigestion and flatulence. Chewing fresh leaves may relieve toothache. To help sweat out a fever or cure a cold, grind dried leaves and flowers to a powder, mix with equal parts ground ginger and cayenne pepper, and add two tablespoons of the mixture to a hot bath. Soak for no more than 20 minutes, then shower off the residue before going to bed.

Sage
"How can a man die when he has sage in his garden?" asked Hippocrates. Sage tea is one of the oldest multipurpose medicines. It's powerful and rough tasting, so make it at half the usual strength. It is said to aid digestion, improves memory and increases fertility. Gargle it to relieve sore throat, and add it to regular conditioner to darken hair color and encourage growth for thinning hair.

Chamomile
Drink chamomile-flower tea for its calming effects, then gather the wet residue into cheesecloth pouches and lay them over your closed eyes to reduce puffiness and shadows. Use tea as a rinse to lighten and condition fair hair. If you plant enough and pick it carefully, it can give two or three crops of flowers in a good summer.

Meadowsweet
Meadowsweet flower buds were used to synthesize an early version of Aspirin. Tea made from the flowers of these thirsty, damp-dwelling plants may help to alleviate fever, diarrhea and other flu-like symptoms. You can also make an astringent skin tonic by soaking the flowers in a shallow dish of rainwater.

Mullein
The leaves and flowers of this climbing perennial make a tea that may ease the symptoms of respiratory problems such as bronchitis, asthma and hay fever. (Strain well before drinking.) To make an easy medicinal oil, fill a jar with mullein flowers, cover with olive oil, top with a cheesecloth and let sit for two weeks. Strain well before applying for earaches, toothaches, warts and other skin sores.

Marigold
Pot marigold (calendula) can be used as an ointment to alleviate many skin problems, including eczema, spotty complexion and dry, rough skin. Make a lotion by gently boiling the petals of six marigolds in a cup of milk.

Basil
This annual helps keeps away flies and other insects, and the subtle aroma is said to have a calming effect on people. Traditionally there are fewer fights in a basil-scented kitchen. Because the seeds and leaves may aid digestion, add them to all kinds of sauces, salads and stir-fries.

Rosemary
Aromatic rosemary is said to be a stimulant. Chew the leaves while driving at night or working late, or strew them in a perk-me up bath before going out for the evening. The tea makes a good general tonic and may helps to alleviate high blood pressure and headaches. Tasty in dishes such as roasts and stews, the regular addition of dried or fresh leaves in food is said to slow the aging process.

Herbal Sleep Pillow
By Sandy Maine
Excerpted with permission of the publisher from Clean, Naturally: Recipes for Body, Home and Spirit (Interweave Press, Loveland, CO.) This collection of over 100 recipes is available through bookstores, craft shops, www.interweave.com or by calling 1-800-272-2193. ($25.95 in Canada)

My son, Cody, began sleeping through the night at age one when I put an herbal pillow (a gift from an herbalist friend) in his crib. This can't be, I thought to myself, so I took it out one night and put it back the next. Soon I became convinced that the herbal pillow was the cause of his full night's sleeping.

This is a trick I will not fail to use again. Moreover, it's the best gIft you could ever offer to the sleepy parents of a baby who is restless at night.

NOTE: This pillow is for use with older babies (18 months or older, or check with your family health care provider) and is not intended for use with newborns.

Ingredients
• 1/2 cup dried chamomile
• 1/2 cup dried lavender flowers
• 1/2 cup dried rose petals
• 1/2 cup dried hops (should be light green in color with a yellow dust; anything less than this is too old, rancid, and not effective)
• 4 drops aromatherapy-quality lavender oil

Gently mix all Ingredients together and spoon into a 4- by 6-inch sack made of soft natural fiber that has a tight weave. Fold the open end over and sew securely shut.

Place pillow near baby's head at night to help facilitate peaceful sleep.

Calming Mother and Child
Why not make bath time a special relaxing time at day's end for parent and child? A dim, warm room with soft candlelight and gentle music is the perfect complement to a softly scented herbal bath. Warm the towels too! Your baby will appreciate it!

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