Marguerite Dunne is a city girl and traveler. Visit her website at www.herbs-on-hudson.com or listen to her radio show, The Urban Herbalist, on www.wtbq.com. Marguerite was also the third place winner in The Herb Companion's essay contest, "Looking Forward to Herbs."
When the herb spirit is alive, roots mature, vines unfold and souls blossom, reaching out with a fragrance of subtle energy. The herb spirit increases with each herb gardening task: planting, tilling, pruning, gathering, infusing, decocting, tincturing, compounding, dyeing and the wistful sundown delight of simply watching the garden grow.
For a millennium, the herb spirit has grown as gatherers have bundled, blended and applied precious herbs. Father Time's laws have never ordered Mother Nature's gardens and so her gardens have continued to grow. Every herbalist carries this intense energy of the vine, which reaches and pushes upward. And when each garden wall is scaled, the vine simply develops, adjusts and flourishes.
Photo by angavallen/Courtesy Flickr
How did our holistic health garden grow? Expo East, an extended vine of the herb spirit, is an annual event in Boston where health food companies can display their wares for the benefit of storeowners So in September, several hundred health food industry vendors carried their boxes and set up their displays. Meanwhile, curious independent store owners and chain-store buyers busily sampled new flavors, dabbed crèmes, collected cute samples and carried out stacks of scientific reports. The “old-timers” wanted to show off their newest merchandise while the “newcomers “ proceeded with caution, ever vigilant for the show’s discount specials. The “old, old-timers” mused pensively about the olden days (the late 1960s) when we still sold bunches of wild-crafted herbs from the backs of battered station wagons and traded addresses for where to get authentic brown rice and good local clover honey. I miss the days when our herb-talk was a secret code among friends, who took the time to put their hands in the dirt, do some digging and do some thinking too.
Lo and behold, I found some wonderful, recycled hippies who've kept the faith and turned our evergreen idealism into the kind of small town companies we admire. Bob MacLeod and SteveByckiewicz (“two vegetarians”) started Kiss My Face about 25 years ago. I like their products because they feel great and they don't leave any sticky residue from overly processed extracts. Their product line started with a big bar of olive oil soap, but many face moisturizers, shaving creams, shimmers and cosmetics later, they’ve got a charming website (www.kissmyface.com) and the goodwill of customers in 19 countries.
Photo by Timothy Valentine/Courtesy Flickr
I chatted with their VP of kissing and telling, Lewis Goldstein, whose “business card” is a coconut-pineapple SPF 15 lip balm. Who says corporate can’t be fun? We wound our way around the conventional business max topics: the roller coaster economy, quick-fix supplements wrapped up in chocolate and educating the next generation. But what made me smile the most was Lewis describing his mother's experimentations with natural remedies. Growing up, he knew that there were herbal health alternatives for conventional medical and cosmetic trades. We reminisced about making soups and brewing teas. We talked about teaching children the right food choices and the early encounters Lewis’s mother had when questioning doctors. It’s nice to know that there are still good folks out there and that the herb spirit is very much alive.
Now it’s late fall and my herb drying rack is loaded with peppermint, lemon balm, oregano and catnip. I’ve already made my last batches of this healing salve with my freshly picked comfrey and calendula, maybe I’ll run some over to Bob, Steve and Lewis.
Photo by tristrambrelstaff/Courtesy Flickr
Marguerite’s Comfrey Salve
Makes twenty, 1-ounce jars
This salve is great for cuts, scrapes, bruises and soothing irritated skin.
• 20 comfrey leaves
• 10 calendula flower heads
• 2 cups olive oil
• ½ cup grape seed oil
• 1 cup lanolin
• ¼ cup of beeswax
• Lavender oil
1. Slow-boil all ingredients in a crockpot for about 4 hours. Periodically, wipe the water off the lid.
2. Strain through cheesecloth into a spouted measuring cup and pour quickly into individual 1-ounce jars.
3. As soon as the liquid salve is poured, add 10 drops of the lavender oil to each jar. The lavender oil is added at the end so it won't evaporate if boiled.