Category Archives: Gardening

Wellness Wednesday: Calendula

Calendula officinalis – Also known as marigold or pot marigold.

Calendula’s bright flowers range in color from yellow to a bright orange. It has widely spaced toothy leaves and grows to a height of about 18 inches. Be sure not to confuse this bushy, aromatic annual with African or French Marigold.

It is a readily self seeding annual. Plant in direct sun with well drained soil with moderate water. Pick flower heads daily to encourage more growth. Calendula will repel eelworm in the garden and is a good companion plant for beans, lettuce, potatoes, roses and tomatoes.

Calendula is a great soothing herb for the skin. I use it in a lot of my salves, oil and skin care recipes to sooth and calm skin redness, rash, and irritation. It is good to treat cuts, burns, lacerations, bruises, diaper rash, sprains and inflammation. It promotes rapid healing and helps minimize scarring.

Calendula is great in a poultice for sore nipples, ulcers, sprains and varicose veins.

It is also a very good lymphatic herb that helps thin and drain lymph that sometimes gets clogged and congested.  My husband had very thick lymph around his neck and ears that was causing ear issues and with massage, and Calendula tea, his lymph drainage improved and so did his ear problems. It also boosts immunity by increasing lymphatic drainage. Note that Calendula tea will make you pee a lot, and this is a good thing. Just be sure to drink plenty of water with it to help aid the body in the clearing of toxins from the body.

I hope you can see why this wonderful and beautiful herb is always at hand in my herbal “Medicine Cabinet“.

How do you use Calendula?


Shared on Wildcrafting Wednesday.


Natural Bug Spray

Since it is summer, and we just moved to beautiful Colorado, we have been spending a lot of time out doors. We go walking every morning and evening and have been hiking at least twice a week in the last two weeks. We go swimming a lot in the apartment pool. We have gone to the botanical gardens in Denver which is beautiful! My parents even bought us a family pass so we can go visit more often, thanks mom and dad!  Like I said we have been out a lot.

Ellie and I have been fine. We just make sure to slather on sun block every day before leaving the house so the insta-sunburn doesn’t get us when we aren’t paying attention. Mike has not been so lucky. He has the sweet blood that insects crave. I don’t know why he is so popular, but he gets eaten alive by bugs whenever we leave the house. After researching what is in other bug sprays, I have been reticent to buy any for fear of killing my loving husband, or having my little girl accidentally getting to the spray and drinking it when we have our backs turned. I am very ocd about what I allow in my home and on my family so this wont do at all! Mike begged me to figure out something. I guess he is getting anemic or something from all the blood loss, he usually just deals instead of using my hippie herbal concoctions.

So this is what I did. I went to the dollar store and got a 6 oz spray bottle.

1/2 tbsp Lavender Essential Oil

1/4 tbsp Cinnamon Leaf Essential Oil

3 oz Witch Hazel

Fill the rest slowly with cold water, cap and spray liberally.

The smell is pretty strong but it keeps the buggies off… of people.  I had some crickets in my plants and sprayed it on them to keep the bugs off. It turns out this stuff kills leaves of plants (my pineapple sage and stevia took it the worst, the sweet basil and tomatoes have dead spots too but the rest of the herbs are ok for now).

So this simple solution works, if you don’t mind smelling like lavender cinnamon, but don’t use it on plants!

Funkified… how do you get out of a funk?

I am in a writing group and this weeks assignment asks how do you get out of a funk or rut? I was thinking she was talking about writing but everyone seems to be writing about life. Well that makes sence! I can be so dense some times.

I tend to get funkey/funkified/funktastic when things change. I don’t do change well. Most mammals don’t actually. We all to expect the expected, surprises are nice… as long as they involve wine, chocolate, or large wads of cash landing in our lap (or all three!), but for the most part change and me do not get along.

I can actually chronicle a few big changes in my life and how I handled them. When I moved from Flagstaff to Phoenix, then had crazy health issues, was sick as a dog, fell in love, and moved to Spokane in a years time frame I was funked. I was super sick, just quit smoking and was moving from everything I ever knew. I love my husband dearly, even before he was my husband, but I took the change hard. I fell into a pretty hard depression and needed prozac to get out of it. I am not sure now, looking back on it, if I actually NEEDED the anti-depressant but I was on it because I did not know better. Once I got settled in Spokane and life became more normal I got off the drugs.

After I had my little princess I had postpartum depression. It wasnt as bad as a lot of people have, but I was depressed, moody, and terrified of the littlest most out of the blue thing happening to my baby girl. It was kinda nuts. Now every mother has a healthy level of paranoia but I was over the edge. I got antidepressants for that too. I made this decision knowingly. I could have used  herbs to enhance my mood, but because I was just establishing my nursing relationship with my daughter, and I did not have the resources available to tell me what herbs I could and could not use while breast-feeding, I decided to go with the drugs instead of the herbs. I was on the Prozac for about two months, until my hormones could even out and I was able to prove to my self that I was a competent mother after all and I could do this.

This funk with this move has not been as bad. I can tell you I am very glad it has not been as bad but I wonder which change made the difference.

I have been getting acupuncture treatments to help my body even out. I have been working with my acupunctureist (Rebekah Giangrecco at New Moon Acupuncture in Spokane) on making my body healthy again. We have been focusing on the Liver and Adrenals and I can’t tell you how much more refreshed and energized I am with the right nutrition and supplements! It is amazing! Rebekah would always ask me what was going on in my life every visit. I would tell her the stresses I was dealing with, my victories and failures, and she would do her magic. At the end of treatments I would feel so relaxed, calm and my anxiety would be gone. It flew into the wind. The sounds she made with the tuning forks and big bells helped keep my body in tune with its self and with the world around me. IT was relaxing and amazing.

I have also been getting massage therapy just about every week since I was about 2 months pregnant. Katrina, my MT is AMAZING. She is THE BEST massage therapist EVER! She knows just what your body needs, even when you don’t. She specializes in woman (she is wonderful with pregnancy) and she works on children as well. She is so great with Ellie. When I had to bring her to my appointments Katrina would always talk to her, give her things to play with, and make me feel very comfortable with having my child there, watched by her while she treated me. The masages were  not only therapeutic but very relaxing and I am sure that has something to do with it. Katrina is taking new clients! She is in Spokane so let me know if you need her #.

I have been doing my yoga, but more off than on lately with all the crazy going on. As soon as we get internet hooked up to the apartment instead of on my phone I will start that again. That also helps clarify my mind and get tuned to my self. I love yoga.

I think the last thing that has helped me stay funk-free this move is my herbs. I know I know crazy herb lady. My herbs give me a focal point, a point where I can go out side, check my plants, water them, touch the earth and renew. It is very peaceful and nice to be able to see my herbs doing well. Harvesting and eating them is amazing. I am very excited to preserve seeds for my starts next year. My  herbs seem to be my constant connection to the earth and the string holding my old and new home together. I am very glad I fought for that trunk space!

So re-center, re-focus, and re-new. Play with plants and focus on my self, that is my new defunkification routine.

How do you defunkify?

Here are my writing buddies to tell you how they get out of a funk:

Molly Yanz-
Angela Stifter-
Megan Gallt –
Nicole Deming-
Amanda Klenner-
Xandy :

Summer time and the moving is crazy

Spring. Plants growing, flowers blooming, and allergies breaking the soul of the most tough people around. Rain falls, leaves appear, and spring is here.  In Spokane it STILL felt like spring, even though the summer solstice is almost upon us. We just arrived in Colorado yesterday and it finally feels like summer! The air is clean and smells like blooming flowers, not just one flower, but a bouquet of flowers all blooming and combining into a wonderful mélange of scents. Combine this with the smell of barbeque and the sound of kids playing in the pool, setting off illegal fireworks; and you have a beautiful beginning to the lightest time of year.

We just arrived in our new apartment, moving into 900sq ft compared to the almost 2000sq ft house (if you count the basement) we own in Spokane, with nothing but the possessions we could fit in the car, us, the baby, and the dog. It does not feel like home yet. Maybe we will feel better once the rest of our belongings arrive. Our stuff is scattered around the living room and one of the bedrooms. The apartment smells like a smoker lived here before and they tried to clean the smell out by painting and cleaning the carpets. So basically it smells like paint and smokey moldey carpet. There were finishing nails in the carpet on the floor that my child crawls on and I am still paranoid that one is lurking in a deep dark corner that only my little girl’s spidey senses can detect, and while my back is turned for two seconds she will find it and put it in her mouth. Does anyone have a large magnet I can use to get the stray nails off the floor?

The drive was not that bad for all that was going on. We were working our butts off on the house for 2 weeks prior to the move. Ten of those days we were working at least 10 hour days, usually 12 hour days trying to get everything done. We meant to leave Friday morning and get an early start on the drive so we could take our time and enjoy the scenery. We left Saturday night at 8:30 with a bunch of stuff left on the front porch, in the garage, and the window casings not finished. The house was a mess but we just couldn’t go any more! We got some construction workers to help us on Saturday and they are supposed to come back sometime this week to finish up the window casings. Thankfully the economy sucks and they were willing to do most of their work on trade. We are down two very nice saws and whatever they took from our donate pile, as well as the food that was left in the house, for their work on Saturday and this week. I just hope they go back to finish the work.

Our Realtor is wonderful and taking all this like a champ. She owns her own “green” cleaning company so we are paying her to take care of the house cleaning. If you need an eco-friendly maid service that does a great job let me know! I can give you her business info. She is amazing.

I still can’t believe how much garbage we had in the house! So much waste comes with a move. We recycled as much as we could and donated the rest but there was still a lot of waste. I was happy though that when we did put broken stuff out on the sidewalk with a sign that said “FREE” (broken baby gates, banged up broken desks, sod that didn’t get used, etc.) people took the stuff away right away! That made me feel a little bit better about getting rid of the stuff. We had two of the wooden framed, plastic cris-cross pattern in the center broken baby gates. One lady took a broken one to contain the new puppy she just got, and one took the other broken baby gate for her pea plants to climb up. What great thinking!

So we leave on Saturday night, tired, sore and grumpy, with a tired grumpy baby and a dog that has no idea what is going on. We got all the way into Montana and stopped. It was about 2 hours but we just could not go any further! When I got out of the car to get the hotel room a beautiful smell assaulted me. I say assaulted because you don’t really realize how bad you and your husband smell until you smell fresh clean air. We were pretty rank. The smell of a full, fast flowing, and live river permeated the air. The smell was so fresh and clean. There is no better smell in the world than fresh, clean, flowing water in clean air. MMMM. That was refreshing. We slept with the window open that night with that beautiful smell and the crisp spring air filling the room.

The next day we drove into Wyoming, which was a beautiful drive. The 90 freeway follows the river right down into the plains. The rolling hills, green grass, and overflowing and powerful river were very pretty and were a great sight to enjoy. We decided next year we are going to celebrate Ellies birthday in Yellowstone National Park. I have never been but always wanted to. What a great thing to share with your family! It is just about as close to us here in CO as it was in WA so no excuses! We have to go see. The air in Wyoming was also fresh and clean. I couldn’t believe how unpopulated it was. It is definitely somewhere we will have to visit someday.

So we got here in CO at 5:30 on Monday, right before the leasing office closed. Things were crazy and hectic but we got everything done and settled. Sitting here, in our new home I still feel disconnected from reality, like this is not our home. This is not our life. But it is, and we will make the most of it. I have spent a lot of time outside today, walking, getting connected with the earth and the rhythm of the place and I know I can find peace. I am drinking some tea from the plants I brought with me from Spokane to help bring the since of home to me here and now. Yes I brought herbs with me from Spokane to here. I am the crazy herb lady.

Hopefully I can bring these herbs with me to our next home and continue the health and vibrant energy I have been fostering all spring. I will bring it into summer, through fall, and hopefully some can live inside during winter. Life will be good. We will have peace. The heart just needs to follow what the mind has been repeating for months.

Happy summer solstice!

Harvesting Dandelions

I have always said that Dandelions should be the state flower of Washington, or at least the flower of Spokane. They are Everywhere! They grow like weeds! I am not sure how lilacs won out, but I guess the appeal of lilacs is that they are cultivated for their beauty and scent, and don’t maliciously take over yards, hill sides and anywhere else it can get its grubby little seeds to.

Well this week I harvested some dandelions from my front yard. Yes harvested, as in I intend to use them instead of just throwing them in the yard waste bin.

Are you crazy? I can hear it now. My husband even told me dandelions are poisonous! Well that’s not really true, but I appreciate the concern darling.

I was first introduced to the uses of dandelion when I had gall bladder problems during and after my pregnancy. Being the concerned mama I am I wanted to avoid surgery or heavy medications like hydrocodone when I was pregnant. I searched and searched for something I could do to ease my gall bladder pain and couldn’t find anything. My most wonderful and awesome massage therapist/birth doula/ friend suggested I try warm water with lemon, that helped but I found dandelion* tea (with lemon) and it eased the nausea and pain from the gall bladder enough that I didn’t have to drug my self! YAY!

I was reintroduced to dandelion when I took an herbal medicine making class this weekend at Sun People Dry Goods. I will give a shout out to the class and the store. There are two more classes in the series that I will miss because we are moving to CO! So sad. If you get a chance I would highly recommend it. In the next class they are discussing sacred gathering techniques, making salves and doing some herb and flower gathering! I digress.

So we were discussing the plants that are great to harvest in the spring and dandelions were one of them. If you could see my front yard you would know that we do a very good job here at Chet Labrow at cultivating dandelions… not on purpose I promise you, it mostly happened with years of benign neglect. After some inspiration I decided to harvest these plants, mostly for the roots and flowers, but now that I read more about them I will go back for leaves and dry them for tea. And as added bonus, there are less dandelion plants in the yard! That will make the landscapers happy when they come to sod our yard.

Dandelion roots

What I got from my first gathering session is a large strainer of dandelion root. The leaves were thrown away and the flowers thrown back to the lawn (thanks to my Husband). I will have a post about how to process, dry, and prepare roots for tea in another post.

Dandelions have many tasty uses, and are very beneficial to health. The thick juicy root grows deep into the ground tapping into minerals in the dirt and taking those minerals into its self for a health benefit equal to spinach or brocoli (according to the book Natural Healthy by Nerys Purchon). The best time according to the book to harvest the roots is the fall and winter because the roots are sweetest. In the class the teacher said the spring was the best time because the roots had spent all winter taping into the earth and investing their energy into growing deep and strong roots. I will try the fall gathering in CO and let you know if there is a difference.

The young leaves have a great flavor and are wonderful accents to salads, sandwiches or juices (green smoothie anyone?). The older leaves I would avoid eating straight, they are very bitter and not very tasty. If you are starving and need food and all you have is old dandelion leaves you can boil them… but who would want to?

When drunk as a tea, the leaves are a powerful (and safe) diuretic; they are also a source of potassium, which is vital for the body and is stripped from the body with most other diuretics.

The flowers are edible.  They have a slight savory bitter first flavor with floral after tones. I have only eaten them raw right off of the plant, but I plan to try a dandelion fritter recipe I got from a friend. The flowers I harvested from this batch my hubby threw out, thinking that I just took the flowers off for Ellie to play with, and not actually to eat… Did I mention he thinks I am kinda kookie? The flowers can also be added to salads, or be made into wine! What a great idea… I am going to have to try that! I love wine… any anything that you can make wine with can’t be bad right?

When drunk as a decoction** two or three times daily, the roots gently stimulate the liver and gall bladder. I drank it as a tea and let the tea sit for 3-4 hours instead of boiling the roots straight because I didn’t think to go out and dig in my front yard, but instead bought Traditional Medicinals tea.

The roots and leaves are used for their anti-inflamitory and cleansing properties and can help relieve joint inflamation.

Also, apparently the latex sap that oozes from the cut stem is traditionally the best way of getting rid of warts. Apply the latex several times a day to the wart (not the surrounding skin where it can cause irritation). Too bad it doesn’t work on moles… we have a lot of those to test this out on! But alas, we are wart free. If you have a wart try it out and let me know if this works!

*As a warning please consult your natropath or herbalist to learn which herbs are safe to eat or use while pregnant. Herbs can be potent and affect your pregnancy or child negatively. The FDA does not regulate herbs or herbal remedies so make sure you surround your self with knowledgeable people before you take anything! Also as another note, allopathic medical practitioners are not trained in herbalism or natural healing/relief and are terrified of anything natural. This does not mean that there are no natural aides, it just means you have to be cautious and knowledgeable.

**Decoction is a method of extraction, by boiling, of dissolved chemicals, or herbal or plant material, which may include stems, roots, bark and rhizomes. Decoction involves first mashing, and then boiling in water to extract oils, volatile organic compounds, and other chemical substances.[1] The process can also be applied to meats and vegetables to prepare bouillon or stock.[2]

decoction is also the name for the resulting fluid. Decoctions differ from most teas, infusions, or tisanes, in that they are usually boiled. The term is used colloquially in South India to refer to black coffee prepared by the traditional method.[citation needed]