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HERBS FOR SUMMER SOLSTICE: PART II

According to the Herbal Academy, “Of all the times of the year we celebrate plants, no other day is quite as magical as the summer solstice.” The solstice occurs annually between June 20th and June 22nd in the Northern Hemisphere, and it marks the first official day of summer, the longest day, and the shortest night of the year. The warm weather, singing birds, and blooming flowers bring hope and joy. Many ancient cultures have traditionally harvested herbs on this day, believing them to be at their greatest medicinal value.”

Fennel (Foeniculum vulgare): plant in spring after the last frost. It’s a great option for growing in raised garden beds, containers, and in-ground gardens. Space fennel plants 4 to 12 inches apart, depending on the variety. Grow them in an area that gets at least 6 hours of sun and has fertile, well-drained soil. For best results, improve your native soil by mixing in several inches of aged compost or other rich organic matter. Promote excellent leaf production by regularly feeding with a water-soluble plant food. Keep soil consistently moist and water when the top inch of soil becomes dry.

Fennel seeds are used to prepare tea that is very beneficial for digestive disorders like irritable bowel syndrome, bloating, and flatulence, and it also eases painful menstrual cramps. The tea has a delicious, slightly bitter licorice taste.


Jewelweed (Impatiens capensis): a member of the touch-me-not family, Jewelweed grows 4-5 feet tall. It has translucent-like, watery stems with swollen joints, and it branches out in different directions. Leaves are ovate, thin, smooth, almost wax-like, serrated, and light green-grey in color. They have a silvery shimmer to them when placed in water. Jewelweed has a distinct irregular blossom that is yellow or orange in color with 5 petals, 2 of which are united, 3 sepals, and 5 stamens. Seed capsules, when mature and full of seeds, explode, throwing seeds all over.

Jewelweed is mostly used in fresh form, but it can also be juiced or gently boiled in water and frozen into ice cubes to preserve it. It’s most commonly used as a poultice or infused in water, witch hazel, or vinegar, but some use it dried in infused oils, salves, and soaps. Jewelweed is a well-known astringent herb and is commonly used for external skin conditions. It has cooling and moistening energetics.


Lavender: (Lavandula): grows well in full sun and in well-drained soil. Lavender is best planted in the spring as the soil is warming up. If planted in the fall, use bigger plants to ensure survival over the winter.

Plant lavender 2 to 3 feet apart, and keep away from wet, moist areas. Give the plants 6 hours or more of full sun each day, and apply very little water. Most people overwater. Make sure there is good air flow around the plants if the humidity is high. Don’t mulch or use any topping that will bring moisture to the plants, and do not fertilize. Prune back the plants in the late fall. When choosing lavender plants, keep in mind that lavender is native to the Mediterranean, where the winters are cool and moist and the summers are hot and dry.

Lavender is a natural antiseptic and can be used on burns, insect bites, cuts, and skin irritations. The camphor in the oil is great for stress, sleep, headaches, tension. The floral taste of lavender tea is amazing! A delicious cup of this herbal tea is sweet and fragrant in taste and is perfect for calming the mind, reducing tension, and alleviating headache.

Meadowsweet (Filipendula ulmaria): also known as “Queen of the Meadow” meadowsweet loves to grow in damp meadows and banks. It grows from 3 to 7 feet tall. The individual flowers are quite small but have five petals and many stamens, typical of the rose family. The leaves are dark green on top with a whitish and downy color on the underside. They grow as leaflets that are three to five lobed on the terminal leaflet. Meadowsweet blooms from June to September and boasts creamy white flowers. The flowers are strongly aromatic and sweet smelling.

Herbalists use meadowsweet to treat a variety of conditions including pain, indigestion, heartburn, arthritis, gastritis, chronic ulcers, peptic ulcer, minor stomach upsets, and diarrhea. Meadowsweet has anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial, and astringent actions. A simple meadowsweet tea is wonderful medicine. It is strongly aromatic, sweet, and slightly astringent. Use a heaping tablespoon per pint of water. Steep covered for 15 minutes. It will get noticeably more bitter with the longer steeping time. Meadowsweet also works well as an alcohol extract or tincture. Generally, a small amount of glycerin is added to help extract the tannins.


Mugwort (Artemisia vulgaris): grows to 4 feet in height, but occasionally reaches heights of up to 6 feet. Its angular reddish-brown stems have bitter-tasting leaves that have a sage-like aroma. The plant blooms with yellow or dark orange flowers in the summer.

The mugwort plant is used for colic, diarrhea, vomiting, constipation, headache, epilepsy, irregular menstrual periods, anxiety, hypochondria, fatigue, sleep problems, restlessness, irritability, and depression. It is commonly used in cooking to flavor fish, meat dishes, desserts, pancakes, soups, salads, and beer. Mugwort is used in a variety of herbal preparations, including extracts, tinctures, supplements, and as a poultice, a soft, moist mass of plant leaves kept in place with a cloth and applied to the body to relieve soreness and inflammation. Mugwort can be made into a tea by adding 1.5 teaspoons of mugwort leaves to a cup of boiling water, steeping for 10 minutes then straining off the leaves and serving. The roots of mugwort are used to make an energy tonic.


Mullein: (Verbascum thapsus): a biennial plant that grows in zones 3 through 9. It prefers full sun and dry soil. The plant grows from 6 to 10 feet tall, so to prevent it from spreading in the landscape, remove the fuzzy rosettes that appear on the plant. Remove the flower stalk before the seeds disperse to prevent a widespread seeding.

The leaves, flowers and roots of the Mullein plant are used for the treatment of various inflammatory diseases, diarrhea, asthma, coughs and other lung-related ailments.


Peach Leaves (Prunus persica): an herb that is commonly foraged during the summer months. There are several varieties of peach, but most all are medium sized trees with 4-inch-long, lance shaped, finely serrated leaves. Blossoms grow in groups of 2 or more at the end of last year’s branches and are pink in color with 5 petals, 5 sepals, and many stamens. Blossoms turn into fruit with thin skin, juicy flesh, and seed encased in a wrinkled pit.

Matthew Wood suggests using peach leaves to cool and moisten hot, dry conditions like those that can present themselves during allergies or autoimmune issues. He also recommends it for skin eruptions, hot digestive and respiratory conditions, and to help cool the body during menopause. It’s also an excellent herb for children and sensitive individuals. Kiva Rose suggests using peach for to aid an upset stomach and nausea anytime there are signs of excess heat, to help with adrenal health, to relieve hot, swollen bug bites, and to soothe the nervous system as it has an almost sedative-like effect that varies from person to person.

Peppermint: (Mentha piperita): is very robust plant and can even get out of hand in the garden. Plant in spring after the last frost, in full sun, and space 18 to 24 inches apart. Add several inches of aged compost or other rich organic matter. Keep soil consistently moist and water when the top inch becomes dry.

A most favorite tea herb and popular among herbal tea lovers. Peppermint tea soothes digestive disorders, abdominal pain and stomach cramps, stimulates the appetite, reduces flatulence, and is very refreshing in flavor.

Peach Mint Lemonade via the Striped Spatula: sweetened with a fresh peach and mint infused simple syrup, this Peach Mint Lemonade tastes like summer in a glass. It's easy to make, too! Servings: 6 to 8: Ingredients: Peach-Mint Simple Syrup: 2 cups diced ripe peaches, 1 cup granulated sugar, 1 cup water, 1-1/2 cups packed mint leaves, roughly chopped. Lemonade: 1/2 - 1 cup freshly-squeezed lemon juice, 4 cups cold water, and ice. Directions: Make the peach-mint simple syrup:

In a medium saucepan, combine diced peaches, granulated sugar, and 1 cup water. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer about 5 minutes until sugar is dissolved and peaches are fragrant. Remove from heat, stir in chopped mint leaves, and let steep until cooled, about an hour. Strain through a fine-mesh sieve, pressing on solids to release juices. Discard solids. Mix the lemonade: In a large pitcher, combine lemon juice, peach-mint simple syrup, and 4 cups cold water, to your personal sweetness/tartness preferences. Pour into ice-filled glasses garnished with additional peach slices and a sprig of mint, if desired.

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