Archives for category: herbalism

I like to think that pretty much everybody can identify a dandelion.  If not, ask somebody around this time of year, and they can probably show you.  Usually when you gather from nature, you have to be careful not to overharvest.  This is not a problem with dandelions.  They’re basically impossible to kill, which leads to the only thing you really have to be careful of with them – make sure you’re harvesting from a place that hasn’t been sprayed with weed killer!

Oh, and watch out for your friendly neighbourhood honey-bees.  They like dandelions too!  image

Anyways, I wanted to make some dandelion-infused oil.  It’s a nice massage oil for sore muscles, but more than that, it’s packed full of Vitamin D and is great for cooking with in the deepest dark of winter when you can barely remember what it felt like to be warm.

The actual gathering portion of this is quick and easy.  You probably need less than you think you do, because the garbling portion of the show is pretty tedious.  You don’t want the green bits, just the yellow petals.  The best technique I’ve found is to split the flower head in half and then sort of scoop out the petals with my thumb.  This project will appeal to the same sort of people who like knitting.image

imageI’m infusing mine in sunflower oil, because if we’re going for solar energy, let’s go all the way!  To that end, I’m also letting it infuse in sunlight for the afternoon.

At this point I’m not sure if I’ll even strain out the petals.  They’re totally edible and good for you, after all.  Probably only if I notice the oil starting to get cloudy, at which point straining out the plant matter can save it.

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I’ll definitely be saving some of this for Longest Night!

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Now that my poplar buds have been infusing in olive oil for a month, (see Part 1) it’s time to move on and actually make the balm.  In her Boreal Herbal, Beverley Gray calls this Boreal Balm, and also Balm of Gilead, and simply Poplar Bud Balm.  (I will never stop recommending that book. Go! Buy it!)

No matter the name, this balm is good for dry/itchy/cracked skin, burn treatment, minor cuts & scrapes, soothing inflammation & rashes, and generally preventing infection and speeding up healing.

Ingredients:

1 cup poplar-bud-infused olive oil

2 Tablespoons grated beeswax

contents of 2 vitamin E capsules image I’m sure pros either buy little beeswax granules, or have a much better grater set-up, but in a pinch, my kitchen cheese grater works fine.

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If you have a double boiler, great!  If not you can probably rig something up like I what I did with a sauce-pan and a Pyrex glass bowl.  Just be sure the upper portion can handle the heat. Strain out the buds from the oil (top up with more olive oil if you have to in order to get a whole cup), and SANITIZE whatever you’re going to put the finished balm in.  I had sort of an odd collection of little containers.  SANITIZE!  Just like for brewing – no sense wasting all your time and effort through laziness at the end.image

Fill the saucepan about halfway with water, and put your bowl or glass measuring cup or whatever you’re using on top.  Heck, a Mason jar would work fine.  Put the burner on about medium heat and melt the wax.image
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Then add the oil.  The temperature difference will make the wax go all lumpy, which is fine.  Let the wax & oil melt together, stirring periodically.image

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When the wax and oil are nicely melted together, add your vitamin E oil.  From what I understand it helps the balm last longer.  Then carefully pour your hot melted mixture into your sanitized jars.image Let them cool completely before you put on lids and label them.
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Easy-peasy, simple balm!  image