Herbs for the Holidays
As seen in the Home Herbalist Magazine.
Some of my favorite memories about the holidays have to do with the smells! The cooking of the food, the smell of spruce, cinnamon, clove, peppermint and so many more. Let’s talk about some herbs you can easily incorporate herbs into your festivities.
Lavender (Lavendula angustifolia) - during the holidays it seems we can become overworked and overstressed quite quickly. Lavender is a lovely herb to have around to help you relax. You can drop one or two drops of the essential oil onto a cotton ball or tissue and inhale. Please be careful not to get the undiluted essential oils on your skin. The herb can be added to a bath with some Epsom salts to unwind after a long day or be used to make delicious scones for your holiday breakfast. Traditionally lavender has been known to calm, reduce emotional overload and tension, provide inner peace, reduces anxiety and fear, help you feel calm and in control, sleep, relieve headaches, bug bites, stings and itching, reduce pain and heal the skin.
Peppermint (Mentha piperita) - peppermint is one I think about when anyone in my family has tummy troubles or just cannot seem to get going. You just feel drained with no energy. A nice cup of peppermint tea is lovely for the stomach and digestion as well as invigorating. Peppermint reminds me of candy canes, hot chocolate and all those yummy minty desserts my family eats at the holidays. If you partake in too many of these delicacies, peppermint could be a great option for you. Chewing on fresh peppermint leaves can help these issues as well as take care of bad breath! Peppermint has been known to reduce a fever, relieve coughing, reduce pain, increases circulation, reduce spasms of muscles or the stomach and it’s antimicrobial.
Chai Spices – Chai milk or chai tea is generally an Indian spiced milk or tea drink that may be consumed either hot or cold. Chai tea usually is black tea (Camellia sinensis) with spices like black pepper (Piper nigrum), ginger (Zingiber officinale), cinnamon (Cinnamomum verum), cardamom (Elettaria cardamomum), nutmeg (Myristica fragrans), and cloves (Syzygium aromaticum). There are many different takes on this popular beverage so depending on where you are buying it or the brand, you could have a totally different drink from one to the next. It is full of antioxidants that may protect LDL (good cholesterol), it is considered anti-viral, may aid digestion, reduce stress, boost the immune system, aid circulation, balance blood sugar, reduce pain and so much more. It is also thought it help aid the digestion of milk for those who have issues with dairy. All great things to have at the holidays when we over-indulge and seem to be over-stressed. You can also cook these spices on the stove-top in a pot of water to make your home smell glorious. Please be careful and watch to make sure the water doesn’t evaporate too quickly, and the spices burn.
Sage aka Garden Sage (Salvia officinalis) - is easy to grow in most any climate. In cooking, it is excellent with turkey, chicken, in stuffing, on any beef dish, dressing or pasta. Sage is beneficial for skin conditions like eczema and dandruff (make a strong tea or infusion and use as mouth wash or a rinse after shampooing), chewing on a leaf can heal canker sores, gingivitis, and reduce bad breath. It can help with digestion. Sage is anti-fungal, antiviral and anti-bacteria, an antioxidant, and may aid the liver and pancreas. It has also been made into a poultice and used externally for swelling, sprains, and bleeding just in case you slip and fall or lift a heavy package wrong. Please be careful using sage if you have epilepsy or other seizure disorders.(1) According to herbalist, Matthew Wood, it may help improve brain function and reduce cognitive disorders, reduce inflammation, boost the immune system, and strengthen bones.
Elderberry (Sambucus nigra) - is one of the first things I think of if anyone in our house is ill. Traditionally Elderberry has been used for bronchitis, coughs, upper respiratory infections, fevers, colds, stomach flu, viral infections and skin issues. The flowers are generally used to make cordials, infusions, teas and could even be deep dried to make fritters. The ripe berries may be used to make jam, jelly, chutney and syrup. If you plan to make anything with the berries, please buy from a reputable source to ensure they are ripe. Unripe berries are considered poisonous.
Orange (Citrus sinensis) – when you think of holidays, not everyone thinks of oranges. I remember being in grade school and making an art project with oranges and dried cloves. The smell was amazing, and it lasted for a few weeks at home. Oranges are full of vitamin C to help boost the immune system to keep you healthier during the holidays. They have been known to prevent indigestion, lower cholesterol, help digest fatty foods. Historically oranges have been used in the treatment of anorexia, colds, flu, mouth and gum issues, reduce stress and fight cancer! They are also a happy fruit. Peeling an orange releases the lovely essential oils into the air which can lift a depressed mood, bring joy, relax and even calm you.
These are 2 of my favorite recipes to make at the holidays. It is fun to share them with friends and family while you are making memories. If you do end up making these, let us know how you liked them!
Clean mason jar with cover
Zested Orange (Citrus sinensis) peel – organic
Brandy or vodka
Organic wax paper
TIME – 4-6 weeks
Zest oranges, removing the peel but not the white pithy parts. Zest as little or as much as you want. Remember that you won’t get as much liquor as you think from this so THINK BIG!
Add the peel to your clean mason jar (about ¾ full) and fill with your brandy or vodka making sure to cover the entire amount of peel collected – and then some. I usually will fill to the neck of the jar with alcohol. Shake it and add more alcohol if necessary. Cover the jar with your organic wax paper, then the cover. The wax paper will protect you from the endocrine disrupting material on the inside of the cover. Let sit at least a month, 6 weeks is best. Shake it 2-3 times a day. When ready, strain with cheese cloth, a strainer with fine holes or a coffee filter. ENJOY!
Candied Orange Peels
3 Organic oranges
¾ cup Water
2 ½ cups Sugar; divided
Mason jar to store in
I have found the easiest way to do this is cut the top and bottom off an orange and then score the peel into quarters (as if you are going to cut the orange into quarters but just do the peel). Carefully peel and slice into ¼ inch strips. You don’t need to worry about removing the pith (white part).
Place peels in a sauce pan full of water, making sure the peels float and do not rest on the bottom of the pan as they can burn. Boil for 15 minutes. Drain, rinse, and drain again.
Add 1 ½ cups sugar and ¾ cup of water to sauce pan. Heat and stir over medium high heat until boiling making sure all sugar is dissolved. Add orange peels and simmer for 45 minutes or until peels are translucent. Make sure that you are only simmering as to not deplete the liquid too much. Do not stir as this may cause crystallization. You may swirl if necessary.
Remove from heat and drain. In bowl, toss peels with remaining sugar. Remove peels from bowl and transfer to baking rack or sheet of foil making sure to separate them. Leave until dry, usually 1 to 2 days depending on humidity. Store in mason jar or decorate jars to give away as presents. Enjoy!
Should you have any questions, please let me know via email at firstname.lastname@example.org. From our home to yours, wishing you a wonderful, peaceful and healthy holiday season.
Love and light,
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