This year has flown by and I cannot believe it is October. The business has been booming, I have been working on writing articles and books, volunteering, doing more formal "high school" modules with my always unschooled teenager who wants to go to college at 16 to become an immunologist (PhD track). Supporting my husband who has been traveling a lot for work. Visiting with a family who is moving closeby because our kids are good friends (well, we all are). Volunteering with Herbalists Without Borders. Taking Aidan to many appointments and hospital procedures due to additional health issues stemming from mast cell disease. Spending a lot of time in all the gardens. Summer was a blur.
Which brings us to September and October. I have been enjoying volunteering with Herbalists Without Borders - as you know herbalism and holistic health (and nutrition) are passions of mine - and I have been feeling as my own kids get older that we all want to get more involved in social and racial justice, access to real whole food in food deserts, global herbalism, holistic health access, and more. And just as I was thinking of starting a few programs of my own, the long time Executive Director of Herbalists Without Borders, Gigi Stafne, announced she was retiring from that position. I spent a bit of time talking to my family about it, discussing how we would all manage this and if my kids were supportive (they are). So I applied for the position, interviewed, and was selected as (volunteer) Executive Director of the nonprofit Herbalists Without Borders.
The minute I accepted the position and started training and taking over, we had multiple back to back natural disasters which has tossed me right into the fire. Hurricanes, forest fires, training, transitioning, and then garden and kids and homeschooling and business, and Aidan in recovery mode after a summer of tests and health issues. So here we are! I love engaging with herbalists and businesses and members to mobilize for good, to help people, and to support programs that make a difference. And it ties in well with my business and client work. One big enchilada of herbal health and holistic family life.
It sounds like a lot, but we seem to be in a great groove here. The positive aspect of all of us working from home, homeschooling and doing everything together as a family. It is perfect for fall into winter as we tuck into home, the garden winds down, and we have more time inside. And we can do work together to make a positive impact. All good.
More about my HWB position and transition:
How was your summer? Can you believe it is autumn?
Can you help Puerto Rico?
The May issue of Aromaculture Magazine is out, and I am happy to say that I have an article in this issue!
If you haven't seen Aromaculture Magazine yet, you should check it out. It is a beautiful digital magazine with articles on aromatherapy and herbalism from some of the most respected aromatherapists and herbalists in our country. This spring issue is lovely! From the editor, Erin Stewart:
"This issue is centered around easy-to-grow garden herbs and useful weeds (and the essential oils produced by them), growing your own herbs, and ways to use them in herbalism and aromatherapy. Each article delves into therapeutic uses for the herb or essential oil being discussed and many of the pieces include recipes so you can learn to work with the botanical yourself."
The May issue has featured articles from Rosemary Gladstar, Erin Stewart, Carole Hodges, Donna Eaton, Cathy Breiner, Lori Wilkins, Anne-Marie Bilella, Shannon Becker, and Paula Begel as well as an interview and excerpt with Rosalee de la Forêt on her new book Alchemy of Herbs.
What I love about the magazine is that it has something for everyone from beginner to practitioner in aromatherapy and herbalism. The articles are in-depth and there are always wonderful recipes and projects to make at home!
I am proud to be a contributor this month with my article The Top 10 Herbs to Grow for Tea.
Be sure to visit Aromaculture to find out more about the magazine and click here to see the TOC and to order your digital copy!
Moldavian Dragonhead Balm (Dracocephalum moldavica)
One of my favorite things to do is to grow herbs for tea. I grow hundreds of plants every summer at my garden plots and spend the summer drying them. I dry enough to make tea for all of my own family and friends for the whole winter. And more. Much more. While there are so many varieties of seeds to grow out there available to all of us gardeners, there are certain (wonderful) herbs that I rarely see included in gardening articles. So I think over the next few weeks I am going to feature a few of my favorite underappreciated herbs/plants/veggies/fruit to grow.
One of my favorite tea herbs is Moldavian Dragonhead Balm. Dracocephalum moldavica has been cultivated as an herb for centuries. It is an introduced plant in the US and can be found wild in many states. It is the Lamiaceae family and shares the mint characteristics - it is easy to grow, flowers all summer, prolific to self seed, and makes a great tea. It is also loved by pollinators.
Moldavian Dragonhead is a self seeding annual, and is hardy in zones 3a-7b. It gets about 1 foot high or so and about the same width, and has blue and purple blooms that look like little dragonheads - with fangs. It grows quickly so it is often one of the first flowering herbs of the summer.
I love how the bees are drawn to it, it flowers on and on all summer, and how the blooms are vivid and beautiful. It is a nice addition to landscaping and is easy to harvest frequently throughout the summer. It doesn’t need a lot of special care and grows happily in most soils and in full sun to part shade. It does better when kept moist, but it is OK drying out in between waterings if it must.
Historically it was used as an astringent, tonic and vulnerary. This plants smells and tastes similar to lemon balm but keeps its aromatic fragrance even when dried (which lemon balm does not do as well). It adds a fresh aromatic bright lemony flavor to blended herbal teas. And it makes a wonderful iced tea.
To harvest, I wait until the flowers have bloomed up most of the stem and start harvesting by cutting the top 5-6” or so off of each flowering stem.
I leave the flowers and leaves on the stem to dry in my dehydrator, and once dried I carefully remove from the stems and store in an airtight container until I blend into tea.
This can be used in culinary recipes - as a substitute for lemon balm. But I really love it for tea - I have used it in my tea blends for almost 10 years now and I have never had a summer without it!
Henriette's Herbal - Moldavian Dragonhead Balm & Lemony Tea Herbs
US National Plant Germplasm System
Strictly Medicinal - Moldavian Balm
Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds
I am a certified aromatherapist, herbalist, organic gardener, photographer, writer, designer, artist, nature lover, whole foods maker, and mother of two unschooled boys in south central Wisconsin.