healthy living

Herb Spotlight: Peppermint

Ready for a great tasting, easy to grow herb for your garden?

Peppermint is part of a huge family of herbs. It is actually a hybrid between two other types of mint, water mint and spearmint. Like all mints, Peppermint grows well in most locations. It prefers moist soil and will spread easily. In fact, the trick is to keep it from spreading everywhere! All mints have the square stems with opposite leaves. Peppermint has a purple stem. Out of the mint family, Peppermint is considered the herb with the most health benefits. It’s cooling, calming, and aromatic. Peppermint leaves make a great tea. You can find it in my Lavender Mint Dream tisane.

This herb is most used for cramping and upset in the digestive tract along with menstrual cramps, headaches, congestion, insomnia, nausea, and colds and flu. The menthol present in the herb is often extracted and used in a variety of products. It is this constituent that helps to soothe the smooth muscles of the digestive tract and uterus.

Mint has had a varied and useful past which is really fascinating to me. Early references to mint encapsulated all the varieties as there were no differentiation.  In ancient Palestine mint was an acceptable form of tax payment. In Greek mythology Pluto fell in love with a nymph named Minthe and Persephone in a fit of jealousy turned the nymph into the plant mint. Greeks also used mint to prevent milk spoilage. It has long been used as a way to mask distasteful flavors and to enhance flavors when cooking.

Some things to keep in mind with mint is some do not recommend it in large doses for pregnant or breast feeding women. Most cautions are about peppermint oil, which is highly concentrated and can be lethal in too large of quantities. The leaf is a much safe form. It is recommended for morning sicknes as a tea. The best thing is to consult your doctor or wellness professionals to determine its safety for you. It is possible to develop symptoms of an allergic reaction as well.

 

Resources:

  • Castleman, Michael. The New Healing Herbs. Revised and Updated. Bantam Books. 2002. p.465-471
  • Gladstar, Rosemary. Rosemary Gladstar’s Medicinal Herbs A Beginner’s Guide. Storey Publishing. 2012. p.184-187
  • Peppermint. University of Maryland Medical Center. Retrieved on June 6, 2016. Retrieved from            http://www.umm.edu/health/medical/altmed/herb/peppermint
  • Peppermint. Mountain Rose Herbs. Retrieved on June 6, 2016. Retrieved from  https://www.mountainroseherbs.com/products/peppermint-leaf/profile
  • Peppermint Oil. National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health https://nccih.nih.gov/health/peppermintoil

 

Lavender Mint Dream Cheesecake

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Don’t you agree that Lavender Mint Dream Cheesecake sounds so decadent? Or should I say dreamy?

I have a few favorite desserts and cheesecake is one of them. I admit this recipe was a bit of a challenge. It took a couple of times to get the taste of the Lavender Mint Dream the way I wanted it to have. This is a very mild recipe with just a touch of the Lavender Mint Dream present.

I selected the Lavender Mint Dream for this recipe as lavender pairs really well with baked goods. I enjoy using it in small amounts by itself when baking as it can be very overpowering. But here, combined with the peppermint and chamomile in my Lavender Mint Dream, it has the perfect balance.

Part of the success is in using a lot of tea for a small amount of water and letting it steep longer than you would when drinking a cup. I use both the liquid and the softened herbs in the recipe to get the flavor I wanted. My first go at it was with just the liquid and it really was not as strong a taste as I wanted. The herbs also give texture and color to the cheesecake too that I find perfect for this time of year.

Create the recipe, make a pot of tea, and take it all outside to enjoy the view and sounds of a warm summer night.

Lavender Mint Dream Cheesecake

Makes an 8” cheesecake

 

Lavender Mint Dream prepared tisane

2 ½ Tablespoons Lavender Mint Dream

¼ cup Hot Water

Instructions:

  • Place Lavender Mint Dream in glass measuring cup
  • Pour the hot water over the tea
  • Stir and let steep until cool, about 30 minutes
  • Set aside for use in recipe below

Crust

2 cups crushed Graham Crackers (I use Gluten-Free ones here)

¼ cup Ghee or Butter, melted

1 Tablespoon of Steeped Lavender Mint Dream (liquid and herbs)

Filling

2 packages Cream Cheese, softened

2/3 cup Coconut Sugar

2 teaspoon Gluten-Free Flour

½ teaspoon Pure Vanilla Extract

2 ½ Tablespoons Steeped Lavender Mint Dream (liquid and herbs)

2 Eggs, set out to bring closer to room temperature

Instructions:

  • Preheat oven to 375° (350° if you have a dark springform pan like mine)
  • Crush the graham crackers and melt the butter or ghee
  • In a medium bowl, combine graham crackers, melted butter, and steeped tea
  • Blend until the graham crackers have absorbed all the liquid
  • Press into the bottom and 1” up the sides of the pan
  • Set aside
  • In a large bowl, combine the cream cheese and coconut sugar
  • Blend until well combined and then some
  • Blend in the flour, vanilla, and Lavender Mint Dream
  • Add the eggs and combine well
  • Pour the filling into the pan
  • Place in the oven for 30-40 minutes, checking at 30 minutes, until the cheesecake is mostly set with a little wobble in the center
  • Remove from oven and set pan on a wire rack
  • Cool for 30 minutes and remove springform
  • Cool completely then cover and refrigerate for 4 hours

Herb Spotlight: Hawthorn

Hawthorn (Crataegus monogyna)  is a fabulous herb and not just because one of its names is “Faery thorns.”  The Celts considered Hawthorn as protective, as guardians of sacred springs and wells, along with embodying the three aspects of the feminine- Maiden, Mother, and Crone. (1) This herb is really a shrub or small tree as it can grow 15-30’ and is part of the rose family. (1) Serenity Meadows uses the leaves and flowers from this herb but you can also use the berries.

A well-known cardiac herb, it has been used in North America since 1896 (2) to support health in a number of heart-related conditions. (3) Hawthornhas been taken to reduce blood pressure (4), increase blood flow, and enhance heart muscle cells’ nutrition, energy reserves, and energy release. (3) It has been found helpful for anxiety and menopause as well. (1)

Hawthorn has been shown to dilate the arteries and veins to enhance blood flow and remove blockages. (5) It also has the benefit of stabilizing collagen, supporting ligament, tendon, or muscle tears, and strengthening capillaries. (5) With virtually unknown to have cardiac side effects, Hawthorn is not habit forming. (3)


References:

(1) Forest, Danu. Celtic Tree Magic. Llewellyn Worldwide. 2014. p. 87-97

(2) Engels, Gale & Brinckmann, Josef. Hawthorn. Herb Profile. HerbalGram. The Journal of theAmerican Botanical Council Issue Number 96. November 2012-January 2013. P. 1-5

(3) Weiss, Rudolf Fritz, M.D. Weiss’s Herbal Medicine Classic Edition. Thieme. 1985. p.162-168

(4) Strauss, Paul. The Big Herbs. XOXOX Press. 2014. p.102-103

(5) Gladstar, Rosemary. Medicinal Herbs A Beginner’s Guide. Storey Publishing. 2012. p. 144-146

Herb Spotlight: Tulsi

The Queen of Herbs is just one of the names for Tulsi, also known as Holy Basil (Ocimum sanctum L). This perennial herb is native to the Indian subcontinent and also grows well in my southwestern PA garden. It grows up to 1 meter (or over 3 feet) tall. The plant is purplish in color with narrow oval leaves. The leaves are green and purple and are in opposite pairs on a slightly hairy stem. The flowers bloom in mid-summer.

This pungent and bitter herb (1) has both warming and cooling effects. Often Tulsi is used for its anti-inflammatory as well as adaptogenic properties. (2,3)

It is included in Serenity Meadows because it is an adaptogen, meaning it helps to balance the body especially in terms of the effects of stress. (3) Tulsi does this by lowering levels of oxidative stress and free radicals from chronic stress conditions (4), supporting mild blood thinning to help the liver’s metabolic functions, and eases mild indigestion. (5,1)

In India, Tulsi has been used to balance chakra energy, specifically the third eye chakra. The plant is believed to provide protection for homes around which it is planted and is regarded as a sacred plant. Malas can be made from the woody stems and worn around the neck or wrist. (5)

There are no known contraindications though as always, consult with a trained professional on your specific situation if you have any questions about the herb.


References:

  1. Holy Basil- Medicinal Uses (Posted on May 20, 2010) Herbalpedia. Retrieved from http://www.herbalpedia.com/blog/?p=22
  2. Holy Basil (Last reviewed April 21, 2015) University of Michigan Health System. Retrieved from http://www.uofmhealth.org/health-library/hn-4597000
  3. Unravelling the genome of Holy basil: an “incomparable” “elixir of life” of traditional Indian medicine. Shubhra Rastogi, Alok Kalra, Vikrant Gupta, Feroz Khan, Raj Kishori Lal, Anil Kumar, Tripathi, Sriram Parameswaran, Chellappa Gopalakrishnan, Gopalakrishna Ramaswamy, Ajit Kumar Shasany. Published BMC Genomics 2015, 16:413. Retrieved from http://www.biomedcentral.com/1471-2164/16/413
  4. Holy basil – a key herb for stress, anxiety, depression and fatigue. Joanna Sochan. Published September 2014 (Retrieved on October 17, 2015) Retrieved fromhttp://naturimedica.com/holy-basil-key-herb-stress-anxiety-depression-fatigue/
  5. Maimes Report on Holy Basil. Steven Maimes. Version 1 November 2004 SALAM Research. (Retrieved on October 23, 2015) Retrieved from http://www.researchgate.net/publication/230634694_Maimes_Report_on_Holy_Basil