Smorgasbord Health Column – The Medicine Woman’s Treasure Chest – Herbal Medicine – Lavender


What is Herbal Medicine

Herbal medicine has been part of our ancient and more modern history for thousands of years. Unfortunately there is no money to be made by the pharmaceutical companies when only a plant is processed. Therefore in the last twenty years particularly there has been a focused effort, at a very high level, to downgrade all alternative therapies including herbal remedies to quackery.  We can only now suggest that an alternative therapy MAY help you.

A commonsense warning about herbal medicines.

Herbal medicines should be treated with respect and should only be used if you have read all the contraindications, possible side effects and never with any prescribed medication unless you have cleared with your doctor first.

This is particularly important if you are pregnant or trying to become pregnant as taking specific herbal medicines can cause harm.

Go to a qualified herbalist or if you buy over the counter on online read all the instructions beforehand or enclosed in the packet. I always buy the more expensive and professionally prepared tinctures and have stayed with that brand for the last twenty years.

Having established that; I want to introduce you to herbs that can be taken as a prepared tincture but also those that you can include in your diet which may improve and maintain your health. This week a herb that is used by millions because of its versatility.

I doubt that there are many of you reading this post who have not come across Lavender in your lifetime. It is a beautiful plant in the garden and its perfume has been used for centuries as part of many cultures bathing rituals.

Its botanical name is Lavandula Officinalis and you will usually find it called English Lavender or garden Lavender. In fact its name belies the fact that originally it was found in Mediterranean region as well in Africa and some parts of Russia.

The Romans used daily in their bathwater and also as we do today, in small sachets placed between layers of clothing to keep them fresh smelling and to act as a natural deodorant. A few centuries later, as hygiene took a back seat in the Middle Ages, it would be used in oil form to kill bed bugs and lice.

Certainly few warriors went into battle without a bottle of lavender oil, as it was considered to be a powerful antiseptic and this has been backed up by modern scientists in a laboratory setting where the oil has been found to kill bacteria.

It can be taken as an infusion with a teaspoon of the dried herb in a cup of boiling water and allowed to steep for 10 to 15 minutes. Over the centuries it has been used to treat indigestion, insomnia, stress, pain, rheumatism, toothache and low blood pressure.

Not every culture would have used for the same conditions but generally as an antispasmodic it would have been used to relieve menstrual cramps as well as intestinal cramps.  In Spain for example it has been used in the treatment of diabetes and in South America it is used as an infusion to treat PMS. Elsewhere you will find it is used as a headache or migraine cure.

Externally as an oil it is soothing for skin rashes and insect bites.  If you are out hiking or in areas where there are mosquitos and other biting insects, oil of lavender may prevent you being stung in the first place.

You can add five or six drops to your bath, add three of four drops to 15ml of a carrier oil for massage and of course infuse the fresh herb for tea.  I use prepared teabags at the moment as we do not have lavender in the garden but do make sure that you buy organic.  You can get some very soothing combinations such as chamomile and lavender. To help you sleep you can put some lavender herbs into a small porous bag and put under your pillow.

A summary of the ways to use Lavender Oil

It is an all round family friendly essential oil but it is still not recommended to use essential oils for children under five, unless under the guidance of a qualified aromatherapist.

  • It is very useful to smooth a drop of lavender essential oil over bruises once or twice a day.
  • Diluted lavender oil smoothed around the neck and temples, overlaid with two drop of the pure oil may alleviate headaches.
  • Some diluted lavender oil combined with 1 drop of chamomile essential oil at bath time for children can calm them after a stressful day.
  • For adults you can blend 2.5ml of lavender oil with a drip each of pure mandarin and geranium essential oil for a soothing and relaxing bath.
  • If you are lucky enough to have an extended period of sunshine, then you can mix 5ml of soothing Aloe Vera Gel with 5 drops of Lavender pure oil and spread over any pink areas of skin.
  • You can also cool down after a day in the sun by keeping 250ml of still mineral water combined with 20 drops of pure lavender oil in an atomiser in the refrigerator.
  • Any mild burns in the kitchen can be cooled first under the cold water tap and then apply neat lavender oil. Cover with a gauze, and change the dressing regularly. When it begins to heal use the aloe vera gel and oil mix that I detailed above.
  • The oils antiseptic properties also come in use for skin conditions such as eczema, insomnia, bacterial infections, teenage acne, and when rubbed into joints relieve the pain of rheumatism and arthritis.
  • In a blended massage oil, lavender is calming and relaxing.
  • Add 2 drops of lavender oil and 2 drops of eucalyptus oil to a small bowl of very hot water and place by your bed to help you sleep.
  • Use the dried lavender, infused with lavender oil in small organza sachets for use in your linen cupboard or clothes drawers.
  • Lavender can be combined with other oils in a diffuser to naturally scent your home.

When not to use lavender.

As with any herb you do have to remember that it is a medicine and its effects will either increase the potency of a specific drug or weaken it. In the case of lavender this applies to anti-depressants and blood thinners.. Check with a pharmacist if you are on any prescribed medication before using.

You should not take internally when you are pregnant however lavender can be used in as a bath oil or if you are seeing a qualified massage therapist in the second trimester onwards.

  • However it should not be used as an oil in the first three months or if you have a history of miscarriage.
  • Stop using immediately if you develop a skin rash to the oil products or you feel nauseous when drinking the tea.

Thank you for dropping by and hope you found interesting.. Lavender is another herb to add to your medicine cabinet.  Sally

©Sally Cronin – Just Food for Health – 1998 – 2020

I am a qualified nutritional therapist with twenty-two years experience working with clients in Ireland and the UK as well as being a health consultant on radio in Spain. Although I write a lot of fiction, I actually wrote my first two books on health, the first one, Size Matters, a weight loss programme 20 years ago, based on my own weight loss of 154lbs. My first clinic was in Ireland, the Cronin Diet Advisory Centre and my second book, Just Food for Health was written as my client’s workbook. Since then I have written a men’s health manual, and anti-aging programme, articles for magazines and posts here on Smorgasbord.

If you would like to browse my health books and fiction you can find them here: My books and reviews 2020

Your feedback is always welcome and if you do find that following any of the programmes that I have shared are beneficial then it would be great to hear about it.. you can email me on sally.cronin@moyhill.com.

Smorgasbord Blog Magazine – Food Column – Carol Taylor – A – Z of Food – ‘L’ is for Lamb, Lavender, Lemon/ Lime Meringue Pie, Liquorice and Liver…


Welcome to the series from Carol Taylor, the wonderful A – Z of Food and I am looking forward to expanding my knowledge of wonderful ingredients across the food groups, spices and herbs over the year.

Welcome to the next letter of the alphabet and I am starting with Lamb which is one of my favorite meats although not so easily available here.

Egyptian Lamb Flatbreads

Cold lamb is not very nice so we decided to make some flatbreads..a first for me and I was really pleased with how they came out..very quick and easy to make and a great use for the leftover lamb they made a change to shepherds pie. I now make my own bread and flatbreads all the time.

Ingredients:

• 1/2 cup water.
• 1/4 cup of milk
• 2 cups flour.
• 1 tbsp. Baking Powder.
• 2 tbsp. oil
• 1/2 tsp. salt.

Filling Mix

• 300 gm leftover cooked lamb…or you can use beef, pork or chicken.
• 1 lemon/lime finely zested.
• The juice half lemon/lime.
• 2 tsp. black pepper.
• 1 tsp. oregano or marjoram.
• 1 tsp. dried thyme
• I tsp. Paprika.
• 1 tbsp. cumin seeds, toasted.
• 2 eggs beaten.
• 1 tsp. sea salt…
• 4 Spring onions finely sliced.

Let’s Cook!

To make flatbreads.

Sift dry ingredients together. Add liquids and mix thoroughly…I used my food processor and it took literally 2 mins…. if that and formed a ball. If it is too sticky add little more flour. Divide into 8 pieces. Flatten with the heel of the hand and roll out very thin.
My first attempt at this and I didn’t roll mine out thin enough to start with.

Heat pan and cook 2/3 minutes each side turn over with tongs or fish slice and done… finito…ready to fill…easy peasy.

Lamb Filling.

Chop lamb into rough little chunks and pieces. Put in large bowl with lemon zest and squeeze half of the lemon juice into the mix. Add all your spices, the eggs, salt and pepper and most of the spring onions and retain some for garnishing. Mix together thoroughly.

Lay out the flatbreads and cover half with filling, then fold over and press together. You get half-moon shape.

Get 2 large baking trays and rub one with Olive oil. Lay the flatbreads on the oiled tray, lightly rub other tray and pop this on top of flatbreads. Put trays into the preheated hot oven and cook 6-8 minutes. This way the flatbread will get lovely and crispy on top. If you have small trays you may need to do in batches.

Depending on the size of the flatbreads cut in two …I left mine whole as I served individually (see picture) and not on a large serving plate but for a party or just because you want to….. serve on one dish with Humous.

Larding.

Larding is the cooking technique of inserting strips or pieces of fat into a piece of meat that doesn’t have much fat of its own.

Fat is important in cooking, as it melts and keeps the meat from drying out.

Back in the last half of the 1900s, people didn’t need to do larding very much, as farmers had worked to breed animals with better marbling in their meat. No sooner had that been achieved, however, than consumers changed their minds and wanted “fat-free” meat, and wouldn’t purchase meat that had much or any marbling in it. Consequently, farmers are going back to breeding meat that doesn’t have much fat of its own, and we have almost reached the point that we have to start larding again.

Some meats, such as venison, have always been larded as Venison is very lean meat.

Often lard (pork fat) is used, but if you are doing beef you would want to use beef fat to “lard” your beef with.

Lemon/ Lime Meringue Pie

I seemed to be making a lot of recipes lately which require egg yolks thus leaving me with a glut of egg whites. I haven’t made a lime meringue pie before but as we get more limes here than lemons it made sense to do so… Make a pastry case using either your own tried and tested recipes or following mine.

Make the shortcrust pastry.

I use half fat to flour so for example for 8oz of flour I use 4oz of fat.

The flour is not same here and very recently when I was comparing items from the UK against the US….I made some startling discoveries of the differences and it has made an instant difference to my cooking especially my pastry…. I will say no more but I had a silent rant!

Again I cannot get the same cooking fat so I use an olive oil based fat and crispo. For this sort of pastry when I want a nice soft pastry I used 1/3 olive oil fat and 2/3 crispo.

And cake flour, not all purpose flour, and the difference was remarkable…….mmmm I am still silently ranting…lol

Prepare your pastry making sure you use ice cold water from the fridge and wrap in clingfilm and put in the chiller for at least 20 minutes.

Roll out and line a pie plate or dish.

Some prebake at this point and some don’t …I have done both depending on the time I have or just how I feel.

If I don’t prebake I stand the dish on a baking tray so as to make sure there are no “soggy bottoms”

For this pie, I pre-bake the pie case…I cook the pie case on 190 degrees for about 25-30 mins if you just lightly scrape the edge of the pie it should just flake away.

Now let’s make the filling…

• 1 1/2 cups of sugar
• 1/2 cup cornstarch
• 1/2 cup water
• 1 egg yolk
• 1/2 cup fresh lime juice or lemon juice
• 2tsp butter at room temperature
• 1 cup boiling water
• 2tsp lime zest.

Let’s Cook!

  1. Combine sugar, cornstarch, water, and lime juice. Whisk until smooth.
  2. Stir in butter and egg yolks. Then gradually add boiling water.
  3. Bring mix to the boil, reduce heat and simmer for 5 mins.
  4. The mix should be fairly thick and glossy, if you want to add green coloring at this point then you can. I didn’t so add so my filling was a lemon color because of egg yolks.
  5. Pour into the pre-baked pastry case.

Meringue Topping

• 3 Egg whites
• 3/4 cup sugar.

Let’s Cook!

  1. Beat egg whites until stiff peaks.
  2. Add half of the sugar and beat until stiff and then fold in rest of sugar.
  3. Put on top of lime/lemon filling and make sure edges are sealed.
  4. Bake in preheated oven on 175 until top is golden. About10 mins.

Liver.

This lovely spicy chicken liver dish is very easy and quick to make…. In Thai, it translates to Pad Ped Kuang Nai Gai Tua Fuk Yaao. Try saying that after a few glasses of wine.

This dish is a family favorite, even hubby eats it and he doesn’t really do spicy but I think his love of liver takes over.

Ingredients:

• 350 gm Chicken Livers
• 4 or 5 long green beans.
• 1 tsp. Red curry paste….. depending on the red curry paste you use you may need to add more…I use a locally made one which blows your head off …so only use a tsp. and it is still hot!
• 1-2 tbsp. Fish Sauce.
• 6/8 Lime leaves very finely sliced.
• 4 tbsp. Coconut Milk.
• A small amount of coconut oil.

N.B You can use oil of your choice I just always cook with Coconut oil.

Let’s Cook!

  1. Clean and cut up chicken livers…I do bite-size pieces.
  2. Cut up long beans into half-inch long pieces.
  3. Finely shred lime leaves…..I roll them and shred.
  4. Heat Pan over fairly high heat, add a small amount of oil, add chili paste and 1 tbsp Fish sauce stir until paste is liquid, add finely sliced lime leaves and chicken livers, stir until the liver is just cooked.
  5. Add the green beans and coconut milk and cook gently for 2/3 mins.
  6. Taste and add more fish sauce if required…I generally add about another half tbsp.
  7. It is now ready to serve..this is quite a dry dish so can be served with a small bowl of miso soup with chopped spring onions if liked.
  8. Serve with steamed rice.

Lassi.

Lassi is a popular traditional dahi-based drink that originated in the Indian subcontinent. It is a blend of yogurt, water, spices and sometimes fruit. Traditional lassi is a sweet-savory drink, sometimes flavored with ground and roasted cumin.

Lemongrass.

A tall tropical grass the fresh stalks and leaves have a clean lemonlike odor because they contain an essential oil, which is also present in lemon peel. Used extensively in Asian cooking and it is a spice which I love Lemongrass is a long thick grass with leaves at the top and a solid portion several inches long at the root end. The lower portion is sliced or pounded and used in cooking. As a spice, fresh lemongrass is preferred for its vibrant flavor but is also sold in dried form. The dried spice is available in several forms: chopped in slices, cut and sifted, powdered,

Longan.

A popular fruit here in Thailand in season Longan is sold everywhere markets and street corners…Thais love it…

Longan fruit also referred to as “euphoria fruit,” grows on an evergreen tree and is related to the lychee. Both are a translucent white beneath a somewhat soft and nut-like exterior. The longan, however, has a light brown shell and a central hard, glossy black seed that has the appearance of an eye. The Chinese call this fruit “dragon eye.”

The flavor of the longan is described as being somewhat like that of the lychee only sweeter and more grape-like. Longan Honey is also very nice and healthy and honey I buy fresh whenever I can.

Liaison.

A liaison in cooking is a binding agent. It could be bread or flour but generally, it is almost always especially in professional kitchen cream and egg yolks. Classically it is 3 egg yolks per cup/8oz/250ml of cream which are mixed together and then a small amount of the hot soup.stew is added a little at a time (we don’t want) scrambled eggs do we? then once the temperature of the liaison has raised which is called ” tempering” the mixture is poured into the soup or stew.

If using flour then mix the flour with a little cold water first before you add the hot mix and temper it.

Leeks.

Leeks, like garlic and onions, belong to a vegetable family called the Allium vegetables. Since leeks are related to garlic and onions, they contain many of the same beneficial compounds found in these well-researched, health-promoting vegetables.

Fresh leeks should be stored unwashed and untrimmed in the refrigerator, where they will keep fresh for between one and two weeks. Wrapping them loosely in a plastic bag will help them to retain moisture.

Tips for preparing Leeks.

Cut off green tops of leeks and remove outer tough leaves. Cut off the root and cut leeks in half lengthwise. Fan out the leeks and rinse well under running water, leaving them intact. Cut leeks into 2-inch lengths. Holding the leek sections cut side up, cut lengthwise so that you end up with thin strips, known as the chiffonade cut, slicing until you reach the green portion.

Make sure slices are cut very thin to shorten cooking time. Let leeks sit for at least 5 minutes before cooking.

Leeks can be used in soups, stews, they can be stuffed there are numerous recipes using leeks…Just make sure that you wash them thoroughly as they tend to have their growing soil between each layer.

Liquorice.

Liquorice (British English) or licorice (American English) is the root of Glycyrrhiza glabra from which a sweet flavor can be extracted. The liquorice plant is a herbaceous perennial legume native to southern Europe and parts of Asia, such as India.

Liquorice flavours are used as candies or sweeteners, particularly in some European and Middle Eastern countries.

Liquorice is a chewy, dark-brown or black sweet flavored with liquorice root extract. Common variations include bootlaces, all-sorts (which are bound by colored sugar paste) and regional confections such as Pontefract cake and Yorkshire pennies (shiny black discs that are distinguished by the small castle and owl image stamped on one side).

In Denmark and Norway, salted liquorice is more common than the sweet variety popular in Britain. I remember as a kid we used to get very small liquorice sweets like little pips…called imps I think? and also one which I am assuming was the root and it was really chewy…Does anyone else remember those???

I know many chefs are now using liquorice in cakes and savory dishes I haven’t tried it…I love the sweet liquorice but do think it is a bit like Marmite you either love or hate it…

Licorice extracts have been used in herbalism and traditional medicine.

Lavender.

Lavender is a herb native to northern Africa and the mountainous regions of the Mediterranean and is also grown for the production of its essential oil, which comes from the distillation of the flower spikes of certain lavender species.

The lavender essential oil is toxic when swallowed.

The oil has cosmetic uses, and it is believed to have some medicinal uses.

Can you use lavender in cooking?

Lavender flowers are most commonly used in dessert recipes, but some professional cooks are finding it is also an outstanding addition to savoury recipes. Like rosemary, lavender can add a robust flavor to roasted meats and is especially good with lamb.

Again I haven’t used lavender in cooking but I think maybe I will soon…Has anyone else used lavender in cooking?

Lotus Root

A popular vegetable here in Thailand …with a creamy and starchy texture that’s similar to taro root. Lotus seeds can be boiled and added to dessert soups or ground to make lotus seed paste, a common ingredient in sweets like mooncakes and daifuku. Though not as widely available, even the petals and leaves of the lotus plant are edible.

The first time I came across the seeds were when we visited the Red Lotus Lake here where I live I was then able to join the dots as I had seen the seed pods being sold at the roadside and on the markets but didn’t know what they were…

The lotus root can be found sunk into the mud of a pond or river bottom and the lotus root is actually the stem of the plant. Growing as long as four feet, the stems rise out of the water and ends in the elegant flowers that are so revered in Buddhist and Hindu cultures. Even in harsh temperatures, lotus flowers maintain a fairly precise temperature range, which is perhaps why the Chinese call lotus root a “cooling” food, consumed to restore balance to the body.

I do hope you have enjoyed this walk through the letter ‘L’ next time it is the letter ‘M’, and I wonder what that will bring??? I myself am discovering much that I never knew I knew and much that I didn’t on my trawl through the culinary alphabet.

About Carol Taylor

Enjoying life in The Land Of Smiles I am having so much fun researching, finding new, authentic recipes both Thai and International to share with you. New recipes gleaned from those who I have met on my travels or are just passing through and stopped for a while. I hope you enjoy them.

I love shopping at the local markets, finding fresh, natural ingredients, new strange fruits and vegetables ones I have never seen or cooked with. I am generally the only European person and attract much attention and I love to try what I am offered and when I smile and say Aroy or Saab as it is here in the north I am met with much smiling.

Some of my recipes may not be in line with traditional ingredients and methods of cooking but are recipes I know and have become to love and maybe if you dare to try you will too. You will always get more than just a recipe from me as I love to research and find out what other properties the ingredients I use have to improve our health and wellbeing.

Exciting for me hence the title of my blog, Retired No One Told Me! I am having a wonderful ride and don’t want to get off, so if you wish to follow me on my adventures, then welcome! I hope you enjoy the ride also and if it encourages you to take a step into the unknown or untried, you know you want to…….Then, I will be happy!

Carol is a contributor to the Phuket Island Writers Anthology:  Amazon US

Connect to Carol

Blog: Carol Cooks 2
Twitter: @CarolCooksTwo
Facebook: Carol Taylor

My thanks to Carol for sharing this series with us as she also works on her cookbook and novel this year…As always we are delighted to receive your feedback and if you could share that would be great.. thanks Sally.

The Medicine Woman’s Treasure Chest – Lavender – An all rounder


medicine womanI doubt that there are many of you reading this post who have not come across Lavender in your lifetime. It is a beautiful plant in the garden and its perfume has been used for centuries as part of many cultures bathing rituals.

Its botanical name is Lavandula Officinalis and you will usually find it called English Lavender or garden Lavender. In fact its name belies the fact that originally it was found in Mediterranean region as well in Africa and some parts of Russia.

lavender

The Romans used daily in their bathwater and also as we do today, in small sachets placed between layers of clothing to keep them fresh smelling and to act as a natural deoderant. A few centuries later, as hygiene took a back seat in the Middle Ages, it would be used in oil form to kill bed bugs and lice.

Certainly few warriors went into battle without a bottle of lavender oil, as it was considered to be a powerful antiseptic’ and this has been backed up by modern scientists in a laboratory setting where the oil has been found to kill bacteria.

It can be taken as an infusion with a teaspoon of the dried herb in a cup of boiling water and allowed to steep for 10 to 15 minutes. Over the centuries it has been used to treat indigestion, insomnia, stress, pain, rheumatism, toothache and low blood pressure.

Not every culture would have used for the same conditions but generally as an antispasmodic it would have been used to relieve menstrual cramps as well as intestinal cramps.  In Spain for example it has been used in the treatment of diabetes and in South America it is used as an infusion to treat PMS. Elsewhere you will find it is used as a headache or migraine cure.

Externally as an oil it is soothing for skin rashes and insect bites.  If you are out hiking or in areas where there are mosquitos and other biting insects, oil of lavender can prevent you being stung in the first place.

You can add five or six drops to your bath, add three of four drops to 15ml of a carrier oil for massage and of course infuse the fresh herb for tea.  I use prepared teabags at the moment as we do not have lavender in the garden but do make sure that you buy organic.  You can get some very soothing combinations such as chamomile and lavender. To help you sleep you can put some lavender herbs into a small porous bag and put under your pillow.

When not to use lavender.

As with any herb you do have to remember that it is a medicine and its effects will either increase the potency of a specific drug or weaken it. In the case of lavender this applies to anti-depressants and blood thinners.. Check with a pharmacist if you are on any prescribed medication before using.

You should not take internally when you are pregant however lavender can be used in as a bath oil or if you are seeing a massage therapist in the second trimester onwards. However it should not be used as an oil in the first three months or if you have a history of miscarriage.

Do check with a qualified practitioner before using any oils when pregnant.

Stop using immediately if you develop a skin rash to the oil products or you feel nauseous when drinking the tea.

Thank you for dropping by and hope you found interesting.. another herb to add to your medicine cabinet.  Sally