Thursday, 29 January 2009

Frankincense the Medicinal Herb

Frankincense the Medicinal HerbFrankincense or olibanum is well known for one good reason as it was one of the three gift to the baby Jesus brought from the Three Kings. It has been around well before this time. Frankincense was found in the tomb of the ancient Egyptian King Tutankhamen over 3300 years ago. Going back even further, frankincense has been traded on the Arabian Peninsula and in North Africa for more than 5000 years.

But hang on, frankincense? Surely you are mistaken, this blog is called Herbsways - Ways With Herbs and is all about herbs is it not? What is frankincense doing here then?

Let me formally explain:
Herbs have many uses including culinary, medicinal and even spiritual uses. With the medicinal or spiritual use is it considered the tag 'herbs' covers all parts of the plant including leaves, roots, flowers, seeds, resin, root bark, inner bark and berries. Taking this into account, frankincense technically a herb. This will surprise many, including myself.

Basically the herb frankincense is an aromatic resin manufactured from Boswellia tree. Frankincense is used in perfumery and aromatherapy. The olibanum essential oil is obtained by steam distillation of the dry resin. It is used as an incense and in many perfumes. It is not only in the perfume industry, but is also found in cosmetics and pharmaceuticals.

The Boswellia trees have to be about 8 to 10 years old to start producing the resin. They are harvested 2 to 3 times a year. Omani frankincense is said to be the best in the world with a close second from resins produced from the north coast of Somalia. Trees are extremely hardy sometimes seemingly growing directly out of solid rock.

Frankincense the Medicinal HerbThe method is for frankincense to be tapped by scraping the bark, which releases resins that will bleed and harden. There are many varieties of frankincense trees, each with its own unique type of resin. Soil and climate differences give even more varieties of the resin.

Christian and Islamic faiths have often used frankincense mixed with oils to anoint newborn infants and individuals considered to be moving into a new phase in their spiritual lives.

Frankincense is actually edible and often used in various traditional medicines in Asia for digestion and healthy skin. The edible frankincense must be pure for internal consumption, meaning it should be completely translucent, with no black or brown impurities. It is often light yellow with a hint of green. It is often chewed like gum, but is a bit stickier as it is a resin.

In India frankincense as medicine has been used for hundreds of years for treating arthritis. Burning frankincense repels mosquitoes and thus helps protect people and animals from mosquito-born illnesses.

Frankincense the Medicinal HerbIncense preparations is effective for the treatment of Crohn's disease. The use of incense on the accompanying specimens of brain tumors and frankincense smoke as a psychoactive drug that relieves depression and anxiety in mice. Human patients that received the frankincense extract showed significant improvement in their arthritis.

It is a sign of greed in these parts that the trees have seen to now be in decline due to over-extraction of resin in recent years as this affect the germination of the seeds. This germination level has dropped from 80% to 16%. This will now lead to lower supplies and higher prices of course.

So, now you know more about frankincense when little Jimmy acts as one of the three Kings giving the herb, you can answer his questions on it. When I taught in Primary Schools in England, we used real frankincense and actually burned some in the classroom to give the children a 'taste' of the distinctive scent they give off. All these children will take this memory on to adulthood and never forget that moment whenever frankincense is mentioned.

Monday, 26 January 2009

Salad Burnet - Wild, Free and Cucumber Taste

Coming from western, central and southern Europe, northwest Africa and southwest Asia. Salad burnet is a common herb that not many people are aware of even though it grows under their noses in many instances. It is great for salads as it's name suggest and can be made into either a useful vinegar or a lovely alcoholic cocktail with a unique taste.

It is a perennial herbaceous plant growing to nearly 1 metre high and can be found mainly in dry grassy meadows with limestone based soil. It is very resistant to drought grows throughout all seasons.

It is used not just in salads, but can be used as an ingredient to dressings. The flavour is essentially of a cucumber. The salad burnet is an excellent substitution for mint leaves in many dishes. If you use the fresh young leaves these will give the best results otherwise you may get a bitter edge to older tougher parts of the herb.

It also has been marked in history for being Francis Bacon's favourite herb and was introduced to the New World from the first English colonists. Salad burnet also has medicinal qualities in fact the same benefits as the medicinal burnet.

The salad burnet or sometime know as the great burnet it distinctive in looks has erect stems with globular red flower heads. These have purplish quality with feather like stigmas and sepals; it has no petals. The leaves are rounded with toothed characteristic mini-leaves.

If the leaves are crushed it will give the smell reminiscent of cucumbers. The herb forms in large colonies and attracts all types of insects. It will seed freely and cover big areas. It is a good plant for a short meadow type land as it can withstand mowing. Because it can tolerate drought it is good resource to have with global warming here and worsening.

Seeds are cheap and freely available in many online gardening sites. It is well worth having a few clumps of salad burnet you can pick all year round once established just before you mow the land.

I have given a recipe that I had made in the UK a few times. It was a great favourite of my grandmother who used to make it and gave me the recipe. She said, "It make hairs grow on your chest," but this is not to be taken seriously of course.

Grandma Charlotte's Burnet Liquor Cocktail

  • Salad Burnet, around 5-6 plants crushed or liquidised
  • 700cl white wine medium to sweet
  • 500ml sherry
  • 1/2 lime or 1 lemon thinly sliced
  • 1 litre soda water
Simply mix all the ingredients except the soda water together really well and leave in the fridge for a few hours or preferably overnight. Just before serving add the soda water and add sugar to add more sweetness if required.

Wednesday, 21 January 2009

Milk Thistle - Still Being Discovered

Milk Thistle - Still Being DiscoveredMilk thistles are flowering plants coming from the daisy family. This particluar variety is native to the warmer regions of Europe including North Africa and the Middle East. It is used for health namely, liver diseases with more research being undertaken on further benefits for other ailments.

Тhe milk thistle herb is a tall, branched herb with alternate waxy leaves very much like other thistle varieties. including the national emblem of Scotland. There is a circular-shaped single flower that flowers the top of the stem, ranging from pink to purple in colour. The fruit that is produced from the milk thistle is black with a pappus.

The adverse effect of the medicinal use of milk thistle is loose stools, as silymarin has a laxative effect.

The milk thistle has beneficial effects on the liver, which greatly improve its function. It is used to treat liver cirrhosis, liver inflammation and gallbladder problems. Milk thistle produces silymarin, Silymarin has medical uses and has been used in many countries over the last 40 years. Recently milk thistle and a combination of other treatments were used to save a family from certain death from eating poisonous mushrooms.

There is still much research going on now about the dosages that is needed to have the full effect from the toxin-producing herb. It is only know right now that the doses have to be of significant volume and strength to perform well. This is still being tested and may be verified at a later date.

This is another example of another herb plants that are still not showing its full potential and understanding at this moment in time.

Thursday, 15 January 2009

Herbs In Containers - Five Herbs To Consider

Herbs In Containers - Five Herbs To ConsiderGrowing herbs in containers is an excellent way of saving space. They are transportable so can be brought inside for winter and easily maintained. You will also have much more control over their growth and boundaries. Container herbs are available for use for cooking if they are situated close to your kitchen door. Not all herbs take to containers, but many will absolutely thrive. Some herbs, like mint, it actually make more sense to use them.

The best herbs to use are probably the one you use most often so I have taken five different herbs that would be ideal in containers.
  • Thyme just loves a container environment and will absolutely when planted in one. It needs hardly any watering and a very small amount of maintenance.
  • Sage needs to be pinched and cut to keep it from turning woody too soon and replanted after 3-4 years as the quantity and quality of the leaves will not be as good.
  • Rosemary doesn't like too much water and occasionally likes to 'dry out' a little, again ideal when in a container controlled environment. I personally have been growing rosemary successfully in containers for years.
  • Mint needs its growth to be controlled so this is the biggest advantage for growing mint in containers. It can be used more often if it is handy. It has to be the first choice for container systems.
  • Basil likes lots of water to feed its stems and tender leaves, but can be infected with mildew it too much is given. In a container, you can avoid mildew by giving it an airy position.
Herbs In Containers - Five Herbs To ConsiderThere are many other herbs you can grow in containers, in fact some people I know love this way of gardening and have all their herbs in containers. I can clearly see the appeal, but I still like to see a mix of 'free range herbs' in borders and on the main vegetable growing areas.

Growing herb in containers is ideal for kids to start off their lifetime of gardening. Being so manageable is it a great way to educate and on top of this, the containers can be decorated to the children’s own personal design including giving the plant a name, like ‘Sammy the Sage’ or ‘Mandy the Mint’. What a fantastic pastime you will be giving them.

Whatever methods you use to grow herbs, they will benefit your health, your environment and your cooking efforts with fresh and home dried herbs all year round.

Monday, 12 January 2009

Good Examples of Herbs in Recipe Dishes

I found a very knowledgeable Auntie Beryl who gives some good ideas on a few recipes dishes where the use of herbs is just as important as the main ingredients. The site is basically as online shop, but the information and general tips on herbs is very good. Well worth a visit to the Plantbox site if you want a quick guide to a particular herb.

It also gives brief, but exacting information on gardening tips for herbs. Again very simple and very easy to understand and take on board.

To give you a taste of some of the recipe ideas, there are three recipes from the site are given here below:

Meet Auntie Beryl!

Bake a whole soft cheese with rind, in it's box (discard any wrapping) in a medium oven for 15 minutes. Take off lift and cut a large cross through the top. Peel back the quarters of rind and sprinkle over a handful of chopped CHIVES, THYME & PARSLEY. Serve with pitta or breadsticks.

Fry chicken breasts or thighs in 1 tbsp of chopped TARRAGON with large knob of butter. Cook for 5 minutes each side until golden. Add small carton of coconut cream and cook, covered over a moderate heat for 5 - 10 minutes (or until cooked), turning once and basting occasionally. Season and add another 1 tbsp of chopped TARRAGON for garnish.


Lay out 2/3 slices of smoked pancetta, slightly overlapping, top with a few SAGE leaves and season. Lie the chicken breast at one end and wrap in the pancetta tightly. Saute in a hot pan until pancetta crispy and chicken cooked in middle.

Wednesday, 7 January 2009

Lobelia - Pretty Useful

Lobelia - Pretty UsefulLobelia is a pretty annual or with some varieties a biennial herb that grows to a height of one metre. Lobelia is also known as the Indian tobacco. It has a hairy stem that branches out at the top. The colour is usually green with a hint of violet. The leaves are pale green or yellowish with a sharp taste and a slightly unpleasant smell. The flowers are coloured pale violet-blue on the outside and a pale yellow colour inside.

Lobelia is basically an expectorant, so it is commonly to use in cough syrups. It is also called asthma weed. It is prominent in remedies for treating asthma and bronchial disorders. The herb can be used externally in the form of a hot compress for sprains or swelling ailments.

Going back in time, it has a history of being used as herbal remedy for respiratory conditions such as asthma, bronchitis, pneumonia and coughs for centuries. As with many herbs the Native Americans Indians used to use countless herbs before commercialism took over. The Lobelia herb was smoked and was found very effective as a treatment for asthma.

Lobelia - Pretty UsefulAmerican doctors in the 19th century used lobelia to bring on vomiting, this was to remove toxins from the body. The nickname 'puke weed' came form this. Lobelia helps clear mucus from the respiratory system with some herbalists now incorporating lobelia to treat asthma.

A substance similar to nicotine is found in lobelia and it effects on the body just like nicotine. The central nerve system is stimulated from this. The substance, which is called ‘lobeline’ was previously used as a nicotine substitute in anti-smoking products and deterrents. This faded out as after a time, it was reported as an in affective method of reducing or stopping smoking in the latter part of the 20th century.

Lobelia is a potentially toxic herb, but safe to use in very small doses. In combination with other herbs that treat the respiratory system is considered safe.

Lobelia - Pretty UsefulFinally, it is not recommended that you try to make you own herbal remedies from this herb, but take advice from professional herbalist to protect you from the potential toxins that this herb can present. That does not preclude you from growing lobelia as an ornamental plant, as it is a very pretty herbal species that will enhance any garden.

Monday, 5 January 2009

Bergomat - The Native American Herb

Bergomat - The Native American HerbThe bergamot herb plant is native to America but is now very popular worldwide due to a number of uses in food, scent and alternative medicine. It is also know as Oswego Tea or Bee Balm.

Bergamot is related to the aromatic mint family and it well know for the leave to give citrus or lemon flavour and smell. It can grow to over 1 metre high with a variety of flowers that bloom with colours ranging from a light pink to dark scarlet. Both the leaves and flowers have many uses.

With a savoury and fruity flavour mingled with a fine aroma it proves to be very effective as a stimulant aiding and improving digestion. Bergamot has proven a good remedy in the curing of skin infections.

Internal use of bergamot is used to relieve symptoms of colds, chest or throat problems and also for digestive complaints. Native American Indians made a type of herb tea from bergamot leaves for these particular ailments. The bergamot herb you may be interested to know is not the source used to flavour Earl Grey tea. This comes from the bergamot orange, a different plant that is a Mediterranean citrus fruit.

Bergomat - The Native American HerbThe bergamot leaves are used externally and found extensively in commercially produced fruit drinks. The very pretty petals are often used for food decorations, namely salads. Both the bergamot leaves and petals are put into baths and is said to revitalise the body.

Aromatherapy and use of essential oil is another side to the Bergamot. Essential oils are used in aromatherapy to relieve anxiety or nervous tension. It also aids the urinary and respiratory systems.

Skin problems, especially those that are linked to stress, typically eczema, psoriasis and acne benefit from bergamot treatment. It is also effective for varicose veins, wounds and seborrhoea.

The properties of bergamot are beneficial to many ailments and compounds and potions have the following properties:
  • anti-depressant
  • antiseptic
  • carminative
  • deodorant
  • digestive
  • expectorant
  • insecticide
  • sedative
  • tonic
Bergomat - The Native American HerbThe natural source of the antiseptic Thymol mentioned above is the main active ingredient in modern commercial mouthwash formulas.

Finally, the bergamot herb plant can be grown successfully throughout Europe and Asia. It is great as an ornamental plant and grows best in full sun and will enjoy any soil that moist and well drained.

Friday, 2 January 2009

Herb Pillows and Cushions - A Good Idea

Somehow these have gone out of fashion recently, many people not so long ago used them. As well as the aromatherapy they were a very pretty piece of furnishing with fancy designs knitted or crochet work on the material. There are many herb mixtures used to fill pillows such as geranium, rosemary, lavender, rose and lemon balm. The main reason for these pillows and cushions aside from their decorative attraction is their sweet aroma claims by thousands to relieve their insomnia.

There are many herb pillow that you can buy and I have given just one here, but you can make your own by just placing some fragrant herbs in a sachet within the leaves of an ordinary pillow. It has just the same effect at a fraction of the cost with dried herbs that have been grown in your own garden.

You may want to visit a few websites including this one given, not to buy, but just get some ideas of the types of mixes you can make up at home yourself.

Can I remind readers that I am not an affiliate to any firm, company or third party website on this post.

Herb Cushions and Pillows from
Herbal Cushions to help you Relax & Sleep

with Aromatherapy Oils,
to help promote deep and refreshing sleep.
from Silvermoon. With oils and herbs of Lavender, Geranium, Petitgrain and Rose.

Aromo-pillows have a gorgeous soothing smell! place on your bed, or under the pillow (except for very young children) for maximum effect. otherwise place anywhere in the bedroom. Makes a lovely and caring gift.

Small Herbal cushion With a pink background and
colourful cats owls & boats very unusual! Approx

cushion size is:- 7.5 inches square.

Pillow is infused with Aromatherapy oils of Lavender, Geranium, Ylang-Ylang and Rose With Lavender buds and Rose buds. A lovely gift for anyone who has difficulty relaxing!

Herbal cushion
With a gold background
gold highlights with beautiful red & gold Angels Approx

cushion size is:- 7.5 inches square. toning back of cushion as

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