I've created a page for Chicken Coop Botanicals over on Facebook. This week I spotlighted one ingredient I use each day for the last five days. I wanted to put them all here for reference and for my non-facebook followers. I'll do this again in a couple of weeks. I'm going to be adding some more products in the store this week and next weekend there will be a special sample available with orders. This weekend and week I highly recommend picking a few of the items. There will not be anymore Tree Medicine chest rub until fall once this batch is finished. We are out of the Rose Face soap for about 3 more weeks as well. I am so happy with the support for my little store on the web! Come on down to Etsy and check it out. Day 1: This week I want to share a bit about the ingredients I use in my products. I don't want to limit this to herbs as there is a lot to learn about oils, butters, seaweeds and such. For the next 5 days I'll share just a bit about an ingredient each day. Today I am listing my St John's Wort ointment. So let's begin with this plant. We have a large meadow on our family's property with many natural grasses and wild flowers. Over the last few years St. John's Wort has naturalized arriving in a wild flower mix. I began playing with it last summer as a dye plant. The fresh flowering tops gave a unique yellow that I loved. I grew st John's Wort in my garden 20 years ago as a nervine tea. But as I did more research I found it is also used topically by herbalists in treatment of nerve damage and muscle pain, skin inflammation, skin wounds, and burns. The cooling ointment I made is also helpful with bruising as it includes Cottonwood bud oil (I'll write about this on Wednesday). I make a tincture of the St John's Wort as well as infusing olive oil with the herb. I add the Cottonwood bud oil as well and do not add quite as much beeswax to this as I would with a salve. This ointment is thin and very emollient. I have used it effectively with people suffering muscle and joint pain, very hard bruises and swelling from falls. It gets the blood flowing and helps nerve pain associated with edemas as well as bruising. I have just a few of these 1 ounce jars listed in the store as I won't have herb to work with again until summer. I'll definitely be making more late summer. This current batch has a shelf life of at least 2 years. There is much more to add about this plant, but I think I'll wait until it's blooming here next summer to add more.
Day 2: I love seaweed! I eat it whenever possible. Seaweed is packed with an unusually high concentration of vitamins, minerals, amino acids and antioxidants.. So putting seaweed into skin products also adds nutrition to the skin. Some high end companies have been onto the moisture infusing qualities of seaweed for quite sometime. In the past I've always gone the route that food is medicine and have noticed visibly smoother skin when I am eating seaweed (with miso soup or sushi) on a consistent basis. I'm certainly not giving up my sushi, but I love smoothing this new mask I've created on my face. I ordered some powdered Bladderwrack seaweed powder with the idea that I'd add some water and be perfectly happy. But somewhere along the way I discovered Kelp ferment. Through adding kelp to a Kefir water mixture all the bio-availability is pulled out into a gel created by the mixture. I love a good science experiment so I have a jar going on my counter right now. But in the meantime I purchased some online and am mixing it with seaweed powder and Rose water to create a mask that is soothing and softening. Think what your skin would look like with seaweed both eaten and spread all around. Yum!
Day 3: Today in the ingredient spotlight, we are going to talk about Cottonwood bud resin. Right now, before the buds unfurl, they hold a sticky resin that is full of medicine. I began to research this tree as I'd heard it would be good for joint pain like arthritis. All the years of cooking, knitting and gardening have finally taken their toll on my finger joints. I find that all my joints tend to be quite stiff, but over use of my hands has become painful. As I began to research the anti-inflammatory medicine I found that it is good for sore muscles in general and heals the skin healing process. I was thrilled as these trees grow in many areas of Portland. Especially along the river pathway below my restaurant. As with any wild crafting I certainly would never pick a tree clean or even pick more than 1/4 of the buds off any single plant (the ethics of wild crafting are an entire subject of their own). The wonderful thing about the time of year you collect these buds is that winter storms bring down branches and those are what I gather from. I heat extract the resin from buds that are covered in Olive oil over several days. After squeezing every last bit of oil from the buds I now add this to salves, delicate skin oil and it's a great addition to my St John's Wort ointment.
Day 4: The ingredient highlight for day 4 is Red Clover blossoms. That might get a huh out of a lot of people. There is lots of medicine in those red topped blossoms in your yard and garden. First I will say do not ever eat a plant that has been sprayed. If you are walking down the street and want to grab a few think first about where these plants are growing and how. Once you know they are a happy plant for your body munch away! The product you'll find them in for Chicken Coop Botanicals is the "Cool Flash" tincture. I'm fully in menopause and this tincture helps my overworked liver quite a bit. Although I have a male friend that finds it helpful for his middle of the night wakefulness because of night sweats. Red Clover is one of the best sources of isoflavones which acts like estrogen. The isoflavones also help in breast health, lower cholesterol (another tincture I use it in, but not in store yet) and they are now looking at helpfulness with bone density. Then there all the nutrients in the little guys--calcium, chromium, magnesium (which we never get enough of), niacin, potassium, Vitamin C. I've used red clover as a cover crop in my garden for 20 years to add all this nutrition. I never thought of just putting it directly in me until I began to research ways to experience menopause from a natural point of view. Even just adding the blossoms to a cup of tea is helpful. I love having the tincture as I keep it in my purse cause you never know when those hot flashes are gonna hit.
Day 5: The final ingredient I want to talk about this week is Extra Virgin Olive Oil. This is wonderful for eating and as a carrier oil for herbs to use in salves(it has one of the longest shelf lives of carrier oils). I don't use it on my own face, but it is incredible for adding moisture to dry skin and hair (I have formulas I'm working on now). Other benefits you get from those olives are the antioxidants-vitamins A and E, a wonderful protection of the skin that promotes elasticity. Have you been following the scandal this week about companies that are selling Extra Virgin Olive oil and when tested that is not what is in the containers!?! This goes right to the issue of knowing where your food comes from. I buy Extra Virgin (the least processed and so good for you) Olive oil through my restaurant. I know the importer and have been to Italy to meet with a few of the producers. You can definitely find these same benefits from California or other countries' olive oils. This is a source I already use for cooking so I choose to also use it for my herb crafting as well. Important to me is that if an item is not certified organic I do know the source and that they are using natural methods of producing the oil. I feel this way about all the foods I eat and herbs I use. The word organic is important, but it has widened in its definition over the years. It is much more important that I know the person or company from which I get my products. I also use EVOO daily in my salad dressing. I love to steep fresh herbs in and allow them to steep for several weeks. You are getting a tasty oil this way and double the "medicine" (food is medicine after all). Right now Chives are coming up so that will be my next infusion. I am still using the Rosemary oil I made at the end of fall, but it's time for a change. What types of oils have you made or think you'd like to create?