Here we are in September again! The apples are ripening, the days are getting shorter, the plants are ready to be harvested and starting their process of going to seed. And with all of that comes the beginning of a new school year. Whether you are homeschooling, distance learning, or going to school on campus, we can all benefit from some extra herbal support during this transitional time. And this isn’t only for families with kids! These herbs are helpful for teachers, college students, professors, apprentices, vocational and recreational students. Or for anyone who is transitioning to a different schedule this time of year. Read on for some of my favorite herbal allies for back to school season.
Elder (Sambucus spp) is the first herb I think of when getting ready for the school year. Specifically the berries. They are abundant this time of year. If you are lucky enough to live near a blue or black elderberry tree (DO NOT use red elderberries!), you can harvest them and make your own elderberry syrup. Just simmer the fresh berries in a little bit of water (if using dried berries then you need about the same amount of water (in cups) as berries, but if using fresh you only need a couple inches of water in the bottom of the saucepan) for 20 minutes and strain. At this point you can add some other herbs (ginger, cinnamon, cloves, orange peel are all wonderful additions) and simmer for another 15-20 minutes. Do not boil. After straining, add honey. I like to add the same amount of honey that I have strained liquid. This makes a sweet and thick syrup that lasts about 3 months in the fridge. If you’d like it to last longer, you can add a small amount of brandy to the finished product. Take 1-2 tablespoons once or twice a day to keep your immune system strong. Much has been written about Elderberry’s antiviral properties, but did you know that elderberries are also a tonic for the eyes and cardiovascular system? Everyone in the family benefits from this delicious syrup-you can put it on pancakes, ice cream, yogurt, mix it into smoothies or drizzle over desserts. If canning is your thing Elderberries make an excellent jam. (WARNING: DO NOT EAT RAW ELDERBERRIES-they can be cooked or steeped-as in a tincture or tea, but eating them can cause varying degrees of stomach upset, ranging from mild to severe)
If making your own elderberry products are not your thing, but you’d still like to benefit from elderberries, check out this Elderberry Elixir (note: this product contains alcohol). I also have small batches of alcohol-free Elderberry Syrup on hand for local folks. Contact me directly for a special order of Elderberry Syrup. If you are not in Humboldt County, but would like some shipped to you, let me know and I can add a little brandy to it for stability during shipment. For more information on Elder berries and flowers, read this article here.
Stinging nettles (Urtica dioica) truly are a superfood. Loaded with vitamins and minerals, nettle nourishes and tones the entire body. It is inflammation modulating and energizing, with special affinities for the digestive system, liver, kidneys, bladder, and lungs. It helps create rich breast milk, lustrous hair and glowing skin. I use nettle leaves as my daily multivitamin. This can be done by making a daily nettle infusion (basically a long brewed strong tea). Add a few large handfuls of dried nettle leaf to a quart size canning jar, pour freshly boiled water over it, and steep 8 hours-overnight is better. The result should be a very dark green, possibly almost black liquid when strained. Drink this throughout the day. Some people sweeten it, some like it with tamari as a broth, some use it for smoothie bases. I just like the way it tastes and feels so much that I prefer it by itself. You can mix it with anything you like to get it into your body and your family-just don’t boil it!
In addition to (or instead of) the infusion, a nettle vinegar is also a wonderful way to get your daily nettles. It can be used any way you’d use any other vinegar-just make sure to use it daily and liberally for best results. Click here to get some. A nettle tincture is available here.
Chamomile (Matricaria chamomilla) is a wonderful family friendly plant that you most likely have heard of. Usually with the back to school transition comes earlier bedtimes, and possibly some anxiety and stress. Chamomile can help with all of these, and more. It is a wonderful digestive aid, and gently but effectively calming, like a warm hug. You’ve probably heard of chamomile tea, which is a wonderful way to wind down at the end of a long day. You can also turn the tea into a popsicle for an after school treat on warm September days. Just add honey or other sweetener (do not give honey to children under 2) pour into popsicle molds, and freeze. Yummy and refreshing!
For all you chamomile lovers, we have lots of chamomile products in the shop! For an extra special touch to your after dinner chamomile tea, try this After Dinner Delight tea blend. And for those of you with tummy troubles and digestive imbalances of all types, you might want to check out our popular Gut Support Tea. For a simple Chamomile Tincture click here. Chamomile is also an active herb in our Digestive Bitters blend, as well as our Headache Support tincture, Ride the Butterflies formula, and our extremely popular Sweet Peace glycerite for all ages. And for more information on chamomile, read this article here.
Just saying the word lavender or seeing a photo of the gorgeous flowers in bloom is enough to get me to take a deep breath and relax. That is the power and magic of lavender (Lavendula spp). Just harvesting the flowers and hanging them to dry everywhere in the house will give a lovely aroma that reminds us to slow down and be present. The flowers taste great as a lemonade-just steep some lavender tea in the sun all day, bring it in, strain it, and add lemons and sweetener. So good! The flowers can also be used in baking (lavender shortbread anyone?). If you don’t like the texture of the flowers in your baked goods but love the flavor, or if you don’t have access to the flowers, you can try some Lavender Glycerite, available here. This can also be taken on its own or with Chamomile Tincture at bedtime or anytime you need to calm down and chill out. It is also an essential ingredient in our Headache Tincture blend. But my very favorite way to use lavender is our Lavender Infused Oil. This is NOT an essential oil! Infused oils are made by infusing the whole plant in oil, which uses much less plant material and is not concetrated. This means it is a more sustainable and safer product than an essential oil. The scent is more subtle, but it can and should be used undiluted in liberal amounts. It is a versatile oil that makes a wonderful massage or bath oil. It can be used after bathing, or as a facial moisturizer. I like to rub it into my temples, jaw muscles, and feet before bed. I also pour it in the bath, but be forewarned that it will make the tub slippery! The infused oil is for external use only. A must have for your bedtime routine!
I hope you find ways to implement these 4 herbal allies into your Back to School routines. I find that they really can help support our bodies and minds during the transitional seasons. If you would like more information on any of these or other herbs please reach out, I would love to hear from you!