The Witch’s Cupboard

Happy Ostara!

This Sabbat heralds in Spring and we can shake off that cabin fever everyone’s been suffering from.  This month’s column will focus on early spring herbs.

How to Make a Plantain, Violet Salve

Plantain: Its gentle astringency makes it wonderful for blisters, insect bites, rashes and hemorrhoids

Lavender Leaves: Is a wonderful remedy for breast inflammation, mastitis, cancer and cysts.

Step 1: Gather approximately 2 cups violet leaves and flowers and plantain leaves (either the narrow or wide leafed varieties).

Step 2: Try to clean off the leaves as much as possible without washing them. If they must be washed, do so, but be sure that the leaves are thoroughly wilted and absent of all moisture before adding the oil. Putting the oven on the lowest possible heat, arrange the herbs on a tray, preferably with the oven door open, and allow the leaves to wilt until you are sure no moisture remains. You are not diminishing the healing power of the herbs but rather, just removing more of the water content.

Step 3: Put the wilted leaves into a clean, very dry glass mason jar, or similar container, and fill to the top if possible. Then add the oil of choice (olive, grape seed, sweet almond, sunflower and safflower all work well) until you have filled the jar. Stir with a long spoon or chopstick until all bubbles have risen to the surface. Add a bit of Rosemary Oil Extract to prevent oil rancidity and further protect the oils. Just remember that water causes mold, so the drier your herbs and containers are, the more protected your oil is. Place some wax paper over the top of the container and then cap with a canning lid. Be aware that the oils may ‘weep’ while it steeps, so you may want to put a cup saucer under the jar.

Step 4: Place jar in a cool, dark place. Occasionally turn the jar upside down and then right side up to move the oil through the herbs and to try to keep all parts of the herbs covered with oil. Feel free to open it up and check on the herbs. If you see leaves poking through where there is some mold growth, remove the leaves and discard. If mold grows throughout the oil, you’ll have to toss the whole batch, as there is no saving the oil, even if it is heated. Steep 2-6 weeks.

Step 5: After 2-6 weeks, strain out the herbs using a cheesecloth and pour the infused oil into a clean, dry jar for storage. A dark glass container is best. You can keep this in the refrigerator for better storage or just store in a cool, dark place.

Violet and Plantain herbal Salve:

• 1 cup infused oil
• 1 ounce natural beeswax or beeswax beads, grated
• 1 teaspoon vitamin E (to preserve the salve and prevent rancidity)
• 1 teaspoon rosemary oil extract, optional (to further antioxidant protection)
• 20 drops tea tree oil (to add antifungal and antiseptic strength)
• 10 drops lavender essential oil (to offer topical pain relief)

In a double boiler or a saucepan on lowest possible heat, melt the beeswax into the oil. Add the additional vitamin E and rosemary oil extract, if using, and gently stir the oil with a wooden or stainless steel spoon. Remove from heat and add the essential oils. Pour immediately into a cleaned, very dry glass or aluminum container. You can also put this salve in lip balm pots to create a healing travel balm. If looking for a hard salve, test the consistency by putting a spoonful of the melted oils & beeswax into the freezer. If it is not hard enough, add a bit more beeswax until you reach the desired consistency.


Herbs for Early Spring Gardens

Lemon Balm: Lemon Balm is part of the mint family. This herb can take the crazy days of early spring weather. Plant this one into a container then plunge into the ground or it will escape and grow everywhere.  You can generally get two harvests during the year.

Dill: This herb grows lightning fast in cool spring soil. Dill will reseed itself once you trim it back. Plant now and at weekly intervals so you’ll have it throughout the season.

Cilantro: I grow quite a bit of cilantro.  Grow early you can get a couple harvests from this plant.  Be sure to sow directly into the ground.  It can tolerate even a light coating of snow.

Borage: Plant borage seeds now! It will grow quite large, so make sure wherever you plant it, it will live there forever!  You can use the leaves in salads when they’re tiny, and eat the flowers

Basil: It may surprise you that basil does really well if started as seeds indoors (right about now) and then transplanted outside when the threat of frost has passed.

It also grows well indoors. Start seeds inside and keep them in a sunny until they become large enough to transplant outdoors..