Herbal Cough Syrups

Grindelia_integrifolia_wikiI’m sitting at my computer listening to the rain gurgle through the downspout outside the window.  Summer is a memory and judging by the brilliant tree colors and WET, our northwest fall is in full swing.  Along with that comes the seasonal run of drippy noses and persistent coughs of cold and flu season.  You are in luck.  Many of our lovely herbs work beautifully to ease the irritation of coughs and one of the ways you can prepare them is a tasty cough syrup.

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Get a Jump On Spring This Fall

For some gardeners the emotional side of the garden season runs something like this.

December/January:   Giddily pour over seed catalogs looking for the new and wonderful while visions of glorious    gardens dance through our heads.

March/April:  Enthusiastically prepp486ing beds for the green babies to come.

April/May:   Plant, water, and lovingly tend new or returning garden denizens.

July:   Haul hoses and sprinklers around, again. Driest month ever!  And why do weeds grow no matter how much rain?

September/October:   Longingly dream of packing away the trowel and trug and swearing that if the weeds want the garden so badly they can have it.

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Gardening for Health

Hectic schedules, deadlines, ballgames, family, world events…the list goes on.  Stress is a very real part of our lives.  All that stress does have an impact on our physical, mental and emotional well-being. Science continues to find more evidence that long term stress leads to a variety of illnesses from increased susceptibility to viral infection, increased risk for diabetes, weight gain, heart disease, and digestive ailments to mental and emotional conditions.  So what to do about mitigating the effects of stress in our lives?  Incorporate garden exercise, surround ourselves with green, bring whole, healthy foods to the table from our gardens.

According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC) moderate-intensity level activities for 2.5 hours per week are enough to reduce the risks for obesity, high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, osteoporosis, heart disease, stroke, depression, colon cancer and premature death.  As defined by the CDC, moderate-intensity level exercise is anything that increases the heart and breathing rate enough that you can still talk but not sing, which in my case is a relief to the neighbors.  Gardening is included in this category of exercise.  Even better, another study found that gardening motivaIMG_0022tes people to spend more time in the dirt compared to other forms of exercise such as bicycling and walking.  So not only is it good exercise with demonstrated health benefits, but we apparently find it more pleasant than spin classes.

For reduction of emotional and mental signs of stress, gardening and being out in green spaces has also been studied.  In one study a 10% increase in nearby green space was found to turn the clock back five years on an individual’s health complaints.  Working with plants is found so beneficial that horticultural therapy is sometimes recommended to help those struggling with depression, anger, fatigue and anxiety.  A 2006 study that followed 2800 subjects over the age of 60 for a period of 16 years found that gardening could reduce the risk of dementia by 36%.  That’s a lot of peace of mind.

If your gardening takes the form of a vegetable plot, there is the added advantage of fresh, local, pesticide free (because we know you would not add chemicals to your garden…right?) food for your table.  If you are more inspired to create rock gardens or divide dahlias that is no problem.  Visit your local farmers market to reap the healthy rewards of other gardeners, or set up a neighborhood flower/rutabaga swap.

Gardens come in all shapes, sizes and intents.  There is no right or wrong garden.  It may not even be your garden you are working in.  Community gardens love to see volunteers coming.  The point is that connecting with a garden and diving into the assorted tasks needed to maintain a garden space is beneficial to you in so many ways, how can you not?  Grab your shovel and embrace your inner gardener.  Weed pulling is therapy.

References:

AARP. 5 Secret Health Benefits of Gardening. Kim Hayes, June 14, 2017. http://www.aarp.org/health/healthy-living/info-2017/health-benefits-of-gardening-fd.html

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Measuring Physical Activity Intensity.  Retreived 7.1.17.  https://www.cdc.gov/physicalactivity/basics/measuring/index.html.

Rodale’s Organic Life. 5 Surprising Ways Gardenikng Improves Your Health. https://www.rodalesorganiclife.com/garden/5-surprising-ways-gardening-improves-your-health.

Sherer, PM. The Benefits of Parks: Why America Needs More City Parks and Open Space. Retreived 7.1.17. www.eastshorepark.org/benefits_of_parks%20tpl.pdf.

Soga M, Gaston KJ, Yamaura Y. Gardening is beneficial for health: a Meta-analysis. Preventative Medicine Report. 2017 Mar; 5:92-99.

Springs Early Arrivals

009 I love the rainy, mossy and sun-challenged Pacific Northwest.  There is even a part of me that revels in our wet, bleak winters.  But by March I’m pretty much over all that and am ready to see evidence of renewing life.  Spring is a time of rebirth, a time to rejoice in the visual signs of new emerging plants, the smells of warming earth, and taste of tender new and nutritious greens.

That new life is coming.  March 20th may be the official start of spring this year, but already plants are cautiously sticking their noses out.  Chives (Allium schoenoprasum), Oregano (Origanum vulgare), Monarda (Monarda spp.), Violet (Viola odorata), Lovage (Levisticum officinalis), Yarrow (Achillea filipendulina), and Salad Burnet (Sanguisorba minor) are all emerging right now.  Take a walk through the parks, woods, or other wild places around you and may also see the tender new shoots of nettles (Urtica dioica), chicory (Cichorium intybus), dandelion (Taraxacum officinale), and chickweed (Stellaria media).

Now that you have cooed at the sights of emerging green, tickle another sense by adding some of this new foliage to your diet.  As soon as they are large enough, gather young dandelion, chickweed and purslane greens for a refreshing and highly nutritious salad.  Dandelion has almost twice as much vitamin A as spinach (14000 IU).  The bright notes of the greens, bitterness, and impressive nutrients make a great spring tonic in salad form.  Spring nettles are another traditional spring tonic and can be steamed or stirred into soups and stews for a boost of minerals at a time when our bodies need that rejuvenation.  Nettles are particularly rich in protein, iron, calcium and magnesium.  Use care collecting them to avoid being stung and be sure to cook them to deactivate the stingers on the plant.  Alternatively, infuse fresh dandelion leaves or decoct the roots for a warm tea to cuddle as you continue to scan your gardens for other signs of new life.

Last thoughts… remember dandelions are one of the first flowers to emerge in the spring and as such are an important food source for bees.  Also, only gather from areas you know have not been sprayed or contaminated.

References:

Bissas, Aspasia. (February/March 2004). Early Spring Herbs. Mother Earth Living. http://www.motherearthliving.com/Gardening/Early-Spring-Herbs?pageid=2#PageContent2

Cech, Richo. (2000). Making Plant Medicine. A Horizon Herbs Publication:Williams, OR.

Hoffmann, David. (2003). Medical Herbalism: The Science and Practice of Herbal Medicine. Healing Arts Press:Rochester VT.

Meares, Portia. (April/May 1993). Spring Tonics. http://www.motherearthliving.com/Health-and-Wellness/Spring-Tonics.

Coffee Benefits… Or, Why That Cup of Joe May be Good For You

I love coffee.  I love the aroma that permeates the local diner on a Sunday morning.  I love the bitter, tongue scorching moment of the first sip.  I love holding a warm mug in my hand and inhaling the steam through brisk autumn air.  As a child, my grandfather would let me sip from his cup when my grandmother wasn’t looking, and then gruffly tell me that it would put hair on my chest.  At 6 or 7 years old I wasn’t completely sure if this was bluff or not but it didn’t stop the sneak sips. Unfortunately, after a cup and a half, my zero tolerance for caffeine has my husband standing well back with a safety net waiting to catch me when I finally stop moving at Mach 1.  Living near Seattle, this intolerance for the local ambrosia is tantamount to a capital offense.

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