Soothe minor ailments with herbal simpling
MUNCY – “What is herbal simpling?” one might ask. Members from the Muncy community were invited to hear what herbal simpling really is from herbalist and Muncy resident Cindy Koons. In simple terms, it is using the plants that grow where you live according to Koons who presented a program at the Muncy Public Library on April 16. Her background is in nursing and chronic allergies and sensitivities brought her attention to using natural herbs to soothe and heal her skin which often ignites in discomfort during spring and fall. There are several triggers that can set off reactions such as pollen, mold or dampness. “We are not allergic to the pretty flowers,” Koons said, “but to the broadcast pollen. It is in the grass and trees.”
However, upon discovery, experimentation and much research, Koons discovered that the plants she was growing had many versatile uses. “I’m not a gardener,” she admits, but it grows in spite of me.”
Koons said she plants most of the herbs she uses around her garage and her neighborhood home. Using projected photographs, she shared the ones she utilizes the most for her benefit. The first one was lavender, a very hardy and useful plant that grows in this zone. “It is a Mediterranean plant and likes well drained soil. It can last more than 3 years, some up to 15.”
Koons likes to use organic potting soil and suggests buying plants from a local nursery. She teaches herbal simpling and methodology. She uses cold pressed oils infused with herbs to make a soothing skin salve. Lavender oil is one of the main ingredients she uses. “It has many uses with a fragile fragrance.” She infuses the lavender in jars with a good food grade oil and puts them in the sunshine to seep. “It is good for burns and paper cuts,” she claims.
Rosemary was another useful herb she displayed. “It is an incredible functional plant,” Koons said. It supports the immune system and it tastes and smells good. “It is a great preservativeand good for joint pain.” However, it does not fair well over winter months.
Other extremely adaptable herbs include Greek oregano, thyme, and marjoram which are all closely related and come back every year as they are hardy in zone 5. “However they can be invasive,” and Koons advises growing them in containers. They are great culinary herbs, can snuff out cold sores and help with impetigo, a contagious bacterial skin infection. “These combine well in salves or witch hazel.”
Ladies Mantle is a good pain killer and a pretty perennial.
Another plant that grows well here is peppermint or any plant in the mint family. They are proliferous and can be identified by their square stems. Koons passed out several varieties of mints from catnip to spearmint and there is even a chocolate mint. “They are good to use for flavoring,” she recommends. “And they dry well for teas.”
Lemongrass was another popular and hardy herb that grows well in her yard. It is used mostly for Thai cooking. It is a tropical plant with lots of Vitamin C and will grow well in containers.
Other plants that are beneficial in the yard are parsley, calendula and St. John’s Wort. “These can all be food for your skin healing from the outside in.”
There are plants considered to be a nuisance or to many a weed, however, they have much medicinal and nutritional value. All parts are edible in the dandelion. “It is a good, basic tonic herb,” Koons described. Dead Nettle is another one that is healthy to eat. “It is a nice spring herb with lots of minerals and micro-nutrients.” It can be identified by its sweet, violet flowers and are a native here. Garlic mustard, a spring green, is good for wildcrafting and grows wild just about everywhere.
Koons concluded her presentation by explaining the five various ways she prepares and utilizes the herbs she grows. They are made with teas, infused with oils and/or witch hazel, made into tinctures, and used with glycerites (a fatty acid of glycerol). She advises not to boil the herbs but to solar infuse them instead. Wild yarrow was another example of a good herb to infuse in oil. “It helps bruises and is a good first aid antiseptic.” Koons, who is a nurse at Geisinger with 42 years of nursing experience behind her, advises to start with just a plant or two for beginners. Her sensitivities have caused her not to use commercial products for her skin, and thus she has managed to keep her skin free from flare-ups by making her own products. She prefers to use infused oils vs. essential oils.
Librarian Linda Strausser shared some books available at the Muncy Public Library on growing and using herbs. Matthew Wood is a well known American herbalist and author, plus the craft has grown to include more books written on the subject. “Imagine utilizing the plants that grow where you live to sooth life’s minor issues, skin care, allergy care and even baby care,” said Strausser.