Bluegrass Domestic Violence Program
By Jessica Ballard
Our Make It/Take It classes are a series of educational workshops designed around a craft or value-added product using ingredients from our garden. These classes teach simple skills related to food preservation, working with herbs, and producing homemade body care products. Recipes and ingredients are provided and participants learn how to “make” a product and then are able to “take” it with them at the end of the class. Some successful previous class have focused on canning jam and pickles, preserving pesto and garlic/herb butter; making salves, lip balms, candles; lavender wands; and dream catchers. The classes are always enjoyable and educational—and promote self-care and self-sufficiency skills.
We began our recent Make It/Take It class by infusing comfrey, calendula, lavender, lemon balm and rosemary into coconut oil using the double boiler method. While the oil was warming, we experimented with different herbs to make honey remedies. We harvested holy basil, lemon balm, catnip, thyme, mint, and lavender from the garden and made different honey ‘potions’ for specific ailments by pouring warm honey over chopped herbs in glass jars. Participants made an anxiety remedy using lemon balm and holy basil. Mint honey was prepared for digestive issues. Thyme and lemon balm honey were combined for bronchial problems and catnip honey was used for trouble with sleeping. Once we started playing with the different herbs, some ladies got inspired to make hair oil with lavender and rosemary infused into olive oil!
After we finished honey remedies and hair oil we checked on our coconut oil infusion and strained it. The clear oil had transformed into a beautiful shade of dark green! We put the strained oil back onto the double boiler and added beeswax. Once the beeswax melted we poured our mixture into jars and allowed it to harden up….our finished product was a soothing green salve for bumps, bruises, bites, stings, burns, inflammation, dry skin and more. Everybody needs to keep a jar of this stuff handy!
Teaching simple herbal remedies classes is one of my favorite parts of this program. I have been making my own medicines and body products for years using plants from my own garden and while I am no doctor by any means (and don’t pretend to be) I have found some tried and true remedies that have been great (and very inexpensive) for me and my family. I find that a lot of people are intimidated about working with plants as medicine. They are concerned that they may ingest the wrong thing or take too much. My advice: find a few simple, easy, and forgiving herbs and listen to your own body. And always seek a doctor or professional herbalist’s advice if your illness persists or if you need further information or support.Some common herbs and plants that I keep on hand include:
- Lemon balm
- Holy basil
- Raspberry Leaves
Comfrey Salve Recipe (from the eHOW website)
Comfrey is a perennial herb that has been used to help wounds heal quickly. It has been used to treat bone, skin and muscle injuries, as well as burns and inflammation. Comfrey salve makes a great gift. Simply pour the cooled, finished product into a jar or tin and label.
Prepare Your Ingredients
- If you are using fresh ingredients, shake out the excess dirt from your herbs and flowers and allow them to dry out until they are wilted. In the meantime, line the strainer with cheesecloth. Using fresh ingredients will yield the best results.
- You will need 2 cups of olive oil and 2 tablespoons of fresh comfrey leaves, lavender flowers and calendula flowers. If you cannot get fresh ingredients, you can use 1/2 ounce of dried herbs and flowers for each of these. You will also need 1/2 cup of beeswax, which is used to harden the oil. If you wish, you can add essential oils such as eucalyptus and tee tree oil to the mix just before adding to the beeswax.
- Warm the olive oil, comfrey leaves, lavender and calendula flowers in a double-boiler for 30 minutes, stirring frequently. Do not allow it to boil, only bubble around the edges. Strain into the cheesecloth-lined strainer. Remove the cheesecloth and carefully squeeze out all remaining oil and dispose of the flowers and cheesecloth. Melt the beeswax in the double-broiler, and stir constantly until melted. Add the strained oil and stir until it is blended. Pour in prepared jars or tins.
- Apply as needed for burns, blisters, or other skin irritations or wounds. This salve is for external use only, as it is known to cause liver damage if ingested. Avoid using on cuts that are deeper than ¼ inch or bleeding heavily or appear infected. It can last up to a year if kept refrigerated.