Herb Gardening – Dill

Dill (Anethum graveolens) is an herb that I have had great success with. In my outdoor garden, I sometimes get lazy and this herb tends to be self-seeding if you leave it alone. Self-seeding means that as the plant matures it will flower and develop seeds, the seeds then fall and if the birds don’t eat them they start to grow again. Due to this I haven’t had to plant dill in a couple years.

When I first started my Florida garden it was mostly in pots. As you can see dill does just fine in a small pot. I will be the first to admit that I did not stay on top of trimming or caring for this plant. If you take the time to trim plants regularly they will continue to grow nicely for an extended period and they won’t bolt.

I love drying the aerial portions to use on fish, in salads or sprinkled in sandwiches to add a unique delicious flavor. Another great use for dill is to make a lemon dill compound butter which you can use on chicken, pork or beef. Consider adding it to some pasta with garden fresh vegetables for a tasty summer dish.

To make a compound butter always make sure to use unsalted butter so that you can control the salt (sodium) within your recipes.

For a lemon dill compound butter:

one stick of butter (1/2 cup)
the zest and juice of half a lemon
approximately 1 tablespoon of fresh dill
salt to taste. (adjust all ingredients for personal preference)

When you don’t keep the plant nicely trimmed it will bolt, meaning it grows taller and starts producing flowers. The flowers will produce a bunch of seeds. Once the seed pods dry on the plant some cut off the top portion to continue allowing them to dry. The seeds can be used for a variety of purposes. A delicious option would be dill pickles. A recipe I like came from this site The Kitchn about making dill pickles.

Herbalists also delight in the different medicinal applications of dill which include improving your appetite and digestion. You can make the feather/aerial portion of dill into a tea to help ease abdominal pains or cramps. According to Michael Tierra in the Way of Herbs it can help with colds, flu or cough. It may also help with the flow of breast milk for breastfeeding mothers (pg 43, Reader’s Digest The Complete Illustrated Book of Herbs). As with any holistic practice always consult with a physician or a natural health practitioner.

To learn about dill essential oil, please visit my article here. I would enjoy hearing how you use fresh herbs and what is your favorite? Stay tune for my next installment of fresh herbs from my garden.

Natural Health, Holistic Health Definitions

Sage
Sage

As more and more reports come out about the state of our health and the safety of our health care system people are looking for different options on how to stay or get healthy. This has led to a booming “natural health” industry. What are all these terms though, naturopath, homeopathic, allopathy, herblist, aromatheraphy and holistic. These are all words that you will see if you start looking into natural health, but the amount of information available can be overwhelming.

So let’s break down all these terms to help you determine which may be the best for you. We will start with a naturopath. This is someone that has adopted a philosophy that encompasses the whole life. A naturopath will encourage a health care approach that takes all aspects of life into consideration health, spiritual, mental and so on.

Homeopathic or homeopathy is a school of healing that uses very dilute natural “medicines” of a disease that will help cure that same disease. An example of a homeopathic medicine would be belladonna, this is a perennial shrub that has toxic properties, but in the right preparation can have healing properties. The concept is loosely based on the theory that “like cures like”. This concept is similar to a flu shot where we are introducing the flu to our system so that our immune system knows how to fight the disease.

Allopathic is a term that until I researched this article even I was using incorrectly. Many people have used this term to distinguish regular medical practice from homeopathic concepts. It is actual a system of treating disease by inducing a pathological reaction that is antagonistic to the disease being treated. The above example of a flu shot would be a true example of allopathic medicine.

An herbalist or herbology is the concept of using herbs to promote healing. Drinking teas that are made from a specific herb or flower can help to improve a particular health concern. Also, utilizing specific herbs such as garlic and onions during cold season is also a form of herbology.

Aromatherapy is a concept that is definitely heating up in the market. There are several multi-level marketing companies that have become popular selling essential oils. Aromatherapy is the use of fragrant oils in baths, as inhalants, or during massage to relieve stress and treat skin conditions. Essential oils are a highly concentrated portion of plants and should be used with caution because they can be harmful if used improperly and should never be used internally unless working with a trained aromatherapist or medical professional.

Holistic is the last term I will define. Holistic health is characterized by the treatment of the whole person, taking into account the mental and social factors not just the physical symptoms of a disease. When you take the time to look into these different modalities of health you will discover that they are all a part of holistic health.

I am grateful that I live in a country with good health care, including all the immunizations that we are offered. I also think that it is important that we take responsibility for the quality of our life. I have chosen to use many of these concepts including herbology and aromatherapy to help maintain the health of my family. Eating a diet of natural foods (not processed) is always the best way to improve your health, but these are great ways to enhance your life as well. Take a moment to look into them and discover what is right for you.

Marijuana – Yes or No

Today I am writing about marijuana and the ongoing debate in our country about its use for medical purposes or personal enjoyment. I would imagine that some of my readers would assume that because I study natural medicine and use many herbs and aromatherapy to keep myself and family healthy that I would be a supporter of legalizing marijuana. This question is one that plagues me on a daily basis though. I am definitely in support of using a plant for the positive medicinal qualities that it may have, but when it comes to using it for recreation I do not see the need, but how do you separate the two.

Over the last several years there have been many reports about marijuana being addictive or a gateway drug. Having never tried marijuana or tobacco for that matter I can’t speak to the addictiveness of either of these substances. I recently read that marijuana use leads to dependence about 9-10% of the time, while tobacco is the highest at 30%. The child of two lifelong tobacco smokers I have witnessed firsthand the challenge of trying to stop and unfortunately neither of my parents have succeeded yet. When it comes to marijuana use I become very confused about the true affects it has on the body and why with all the legal ramifications would someone continue to use it if they aren’t addicted. Unfortunately I have seen people that continue to get arrested for possession of marijuana or paraphernalia and face fines yet they still use. If this drug is not addictive then what affect does it have that becomes more appealing then freedom? Why do people risk both personal and financial freedom to keep using marijuana?

I have tended to stay on the right side of the law in the choices I make. I will admit that I drank while underage once and the experience was so unpleasant that I didn’t drink again until I was 25. Now I drink the occasional beer or glass of wine, but I did experience a short period in my life where I started to binge drink to avoid things that were upsetting me. For me this became a turning point, I could either keep drinking and getting hangovers and generally feeling like crap or I could face what was going on in my life and make changes. This is how I feel about recreational marijuana use. If we legalize it are we giving people another substance to use to hide from problems?

In our current society we have so many prescription drugs that are being used to treat countless numbers of physical and psychological problems do we really need one more or maybe marijuana would help us to get rid of some of the synthetic drugs. In conclusion I will say that for medicinal purposes I would support the use of marijuana, but for states like Colorado and Washington that are allowing it for recreational use I am scared. I think that people really need to just slow down, enjoy nature and each other and they may find that they don’t need drugs, alcohol or nicotine to enjoy themselves. The debate is definitely complex and one that I believe will continue on for years. What are your thoughts?

Herb Gardening – Sage

Sage plant in bloom

I have had great success with sage both in the ground and in a container. When I first planted my garden I put sage in the corner of the garden with the intention of it being a companion plant to benefit the vegetables. Due to an extremely wet season the first year it was in the ground it grew very large, very quickly and took over the space that I had allotted for it. The next spring we decided to move it into a container to free up the space in my raised bed. Although I was nervous that it wouldn’t survive the transplant it seemed to do just fine. Now a year and a half later my sage bloomed with beautiful bee attracting purple flowers.

Sage is an herb that is great to have in your garden to help repel insects, cabbage seems to benefit best since it will repel cabbage moths, but it also repels other flying insects. It is a perennial that grows best from starts. Keeping my sage trimmed has been encouraging new growth and my plant has thrived since its transfer into a pot. A huge advantage of having it in a pot has been the ability to move it around to my different raised beds depending on what I am growing.

This herb is a superstar when it comes to the medicinal qualities; it has antibiotic and antiseptic properties. It has been used by herbalists as an expectorant to help expel mucus experienced with the common cold. The stimulant properties help increase circulation which can increase energy and has helped some women experience a decrease in night sweats experienced during menopause. Sage also has anti-inflammatory properties and has been used to treat sore throats and other inflammation within the mouth. Creating toothpaste with sage can also help with gingivitis. Similar to rosemary you can spray a mist of sage in your hair both herbs may help darken greys for anyone with darker hair. (The New Age Herbalist, and The 150 Healthiest Foods on Earth)

A couple of years ago The Chew did an episode with a Lemon Sage Turkey that quickly became a favorite in our house. The compound butter used in that recipe has become a constant in my freezer. Sage pairs well in turkey, chicken and pork dishes. It has a slightly pepper taste that works well in sausage and stuffing.

Compound Lemon Sage Butter

2 sticks unsalted butter at room temperature 1/2 of the fresh sage (minced) 1 shallot (finely minced) 1 clove garlic (finely minced) zest of 1 lemon juice of half a lemon kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

In a large bowl, combine room temperature butter, shallot, garlic, minced sage, lemon zest and lemon juice.  Stir together with a rubber spatula.  Add salt and pepper to taste.

Every day I am learning more about the joys of gardening and the benefits of using the things that I can grow to keep my family and I healthy and well fed. I would love to hear about your favorite herb, what do you enjoy most?

Are we our own worst enemy?

Sunset in the West

Last month I wrote about the UN study that warned of the continued risk of global warming, climate change and my surprise that this issue wasn’t being taken more seriously. Since then we have heard from the World Health Organization (WHO) regarding the overuse of antibiotics and that it has created resistance globally. We have seen several celebrities promoting books or their own documentaries on healthy diets or the diabetes/obesity epidemic. Then finally on May 6th the White House released their report on climate change and how it will affect the different regions of our country. I view all of these issues interconnected and related to the Industrial Revolution.

The Industrial Revolution made its way to America approximately 150 years ago. During this time we saw advancements in every area including transportation, medicine and technology. Within the medical realm Edward Jenner and his work on an immunization to eradicate the small pox virus began what became the foundation of today’s immunology. Later in the 1800’s scientists began to discover and implement the use of different antibiotics including the widely known and accepted penicillin. Around this time we saw major growth in transportation as well with the growth of the railway. The railway changed the way people and foods were able to move about the country. This new way of transporting food changed how and what people living in urban areas were able to consume. There were also the technological advances with machinery being able to complete tasks that were done by hand, many of these advancements continue to happen today. Don’t get me wrong I am grateful for the Industrial Revolution, if it hadn’t happened I wouldn’t be able to sit here typing this on a computer while being able to stay at home and take care of my child in an air-conditioned home. I do think that the Industrial Revolution is what has caused a nation and world of connected yet disconnected people. Let me explain.

The railway* opened up the possibility of moving more people and food throughout the country. It also created challenges for farmers about how to get their food moved around while also keeping it safe to eat. This challenge became an opportunity for a middle man to come in and create a process to keep the foods safe. One process created was refrigeration which kept meat and vegetation fresh longer. Companies also started developing ways of processing foods with chemicals or salt that would help them last longer. This change in the food industry has created a society that is disconnected from the farmer and from the source of our food. How many people know that brussel sprouts grow on a stalk or that basil is a finicky herb that likes specific growing conditions? The majority of society wants to walk into a grocery store and get what they want for the cheapest price they can. There is little thought into the challenges that a farmer might have in growing things. The pressure for farmers to produce large amounts of food at a low cost has also created growing practices that require tilling of the land. Something that few people may realize is that when you till the land it releases carbon dioxide, one of the major contributors to climate change.

As scientists progressed through this revolution, society has enjoyed many advances in medicine which helped us live longer and more comfortably. One of the dramatic changes was the development of antibiotics which helped to keep people alive if they had a major infection, but they also became widely used for minor infections or as protection against getting infections. Also, because of the demand on livestock farmers to produce more for a lower cost they have used antibiotics to help keep animals healthy until they are slaughtered, this means that we are ingesting small amounts through our foods along with anytime we are prescribed them. In the World Health Organizations recent report this overuse of antibiotics has now created a situation where simple infections are no longer treatable. The report sites that gonorrhea is untreatable in 10 countries. Scientists have also worked on chemicals to help farmers combat weeds and bugs to help increase their crop sizes. Just as microbes have changed to avoid destruction by antibiotics, weeds and bugs are adapting to withstand the use of pesticides and herbicides. It seems that humans are the only ones not adapting to our changing world.

Humans have made huge advancements in the world developing faster better ways of transportation, and communication. We have improved our medical opportunities helping people that once would never have a full life be able to experience years of health. Unfortunately we aren’t working with our planet to help us continue to grow. No matter how fast a plane can fly, or a computer can operate they will never replace our need for fresh water and food. The medical community is never going to create a way for us to survive without natural nourishment. It is time to take back responsibility for our health and the health of our planet. We need to help the earth to heal by allowing farmers to use organic practices. We should also try to slow down and grow a garden, spend time in nature. We also need to give our bodies time when we are sick to heal naturally. By working with our environment we can evolve along with the microbes and planet around us.

* Countryside Magazine – Food and the fast track – by Jerri Cook Volume 94 number 5, 2010