Category Archives: Herbs

Relaxing Steam Facial

Images via AvaNiviTava

Okay, so three days ago our house went on the market.

It’s kinda sad. We love our little cottage but we are just needing more room and I’m dying for a fireplace. A garage would be nice too.

Monday morning the house looked beautiful…almost perfect. Fresh flowers, clean floors and sparkling sinks – it was a sight to behold.

We thought, in this real estate market, it’s gonna take some time to get any traffic but we were in for a surprise.

Late that afternoon, we went on a little family outing to the local Gelato place. Tea for us and gelato for Gracie.

At 5:17 pm I received a call from a realtor and then Chris got one two minutes later. Thus the craziness began…

Ever since that day, we have had multiple showings of the house.

Preparation for these showings involve frantic, rushing movements, pulling drapes, plumping pillows, lighting candles and simultaneously trying to contain Grace so that she doesn’t undo any of this. It’s a rather difficult task…oh and did I mention our insane beagle that loves to track mud through the house at the most perfect moments….sigh…

All in all…it’s been a stressful week. I’m exhausted. So tonight I decided I needed a good dose of pampering. I washed my face with my favorite cleanser and prepared a steaming pot of herbs for a steam facial.

Here’s the recipe I like to use to relax, hydrate and soothe my skin-

Boil 3 cups of distilled water

To the water add:

1 tsp of  calendula flowers

1 tsp elder flowers

1 tsp lavender

1 tsp comfrey leaves

(I use dried organic herbs and I order them from here.)

1 tsp olive oil

Cover and let steep for 5 minutes

Place your pot on a table and sit in a comfortable chair.

Drape your head and shoulders with a bath towel, hover about 10-12 inches above the pot and remove cover.

Breathe the steam in deeply and allow you skin to drink in the moisture.

I sit with my ipod playing soothing music for 10-15 minutes.

It’s sooooo relaxing.

For further pampering…follow with a mask, hot shower/bath, cup of herbal tea, a good book and your warm bed.  So lovely.

Nighty night.

xo,

Ivy

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Cherished Chamomile

A simple daisy? I think not! This little white flower may look simple but it was highly cherished by many cultures and is still used extensively today.

The Anglo-Saxons regarded German Chamomile as one of the nine sacred herbs given to the world by the god Woden and the Egyptians dedicated this herb to the sun and worshiped it above all other herbs for it healing powers. Hieroglyphic records also show that chamomile was used cosmetically for at least 2,000 years. Egyptian noblewoman used preparations of crushed petals on their skin.

The precious essential oil extracted from the flowers is sapphire blue and very expensive.  This oil is prized for its anti-inflammatory, soothing and relaxing properties.

For these reasons Grace & Ivy uses German Chamomile essential oil and its organic extract in many of our skin care products.

It also makes a lovely tea that can help you relax and sleep.

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Cheerful Calendula

With all the rain we’ve been having…it’s a joy to gaze at these bright flowers. I enjoyed their company in my garden this past summer and loved using their golden petals to make herbal infusions for some of Grace & Ivy’s lotions and creams.

Here’s a little background on the cheerful Calendula

The Romans named the Calendula, who observed the sunny little flower blooming on or near the first day of each month (calends). The Calendula flower prized for it’s beauty, was also cultivated to treat scorpion bites.  Throughout history it was used to treat depression, headaches, fevers and even plague symptoms. The orange flower traveled across the seas with the European settlers and was used in the American Civil War to treat wounds and promote healing.

Today, it is used in several herbal beauty products aimed at healing chapped, dry or irritated skin.  Helianol, a component of triterpene alcohols is present in the flowers’ petals, which has a potent anti-inflammatory effect on the skin.  It’s antioxidant power come from the carotenoids which give the flower its blazing coloration.

This Spring I highly recommend planting some in your own garden.  Their herbal and culinary uses are plentiful and it’s hard to resist their beautiful, bright faces.

Hope you all have a good Monday.

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Brave Borage

Need a dash of courage? A dollop of gusto? Borage may help you out, or so they believed back in the day…

The legend that Borage invoked bravery is a long one reaching back to  the Iron Age when Celtic warriors would drink wine spiked with Borage leaves when preparing to enter battle. I’m guessing it was the liquid courage that often accompanies alcohol that vanquished their fears rather than the powers of this herb.

However, Borage does have its own qualities that makes it a valuable ingredient in skin care. It’s inherent tannins and mucilage offer both an astringent and soothing effect on the skin and its precious seeds contain a high level of Gamma-Linoleic Acid (20%), a fatty acid that provides wonderful nourishment and helps cell replenishment. So my thoughts on all this…

Bravery is over-rated anyway. Young, healthy looking skin is far more important. Right?

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A is for Aloe

Today’s herb of the day is the African healing succulent, Aloe.

Aloe has been used for thousands of years. In fact, the great Greek historian, Dioscorides has noted its use on wounds, burns, blemishes and even as an treatment for hair loss. Apothecaries often prescribed it to be taken internally for stomach disorders, constipation, insomnia, hemorrhoids, headaches, mouth diseases and to aid kidney function.

Today, we know that Aloe is still used for some of these ailments. It’s an especially powerful ingredient to add to creams and lotions, for it’s healing properties on the skin are unrivaled. You will find it a key component to many of our products.

However, the most effective way to use aloe gel is to get it directly from the plant. Break off a leaf, slice it down the middle and apply the gel to the skin. It can do wonders for a burn or an unfortunate case of poison ivy.  So do yourself a favor and put a potted aloe in your windowsill.

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Wild harvesting St. John’s Wort

It was mid June when I ventured out on my first “herb hunt”. I walked down the path behind our neighborhood, a trail I had been on countless times but had never thought about the plants around me.

With new eyes, herbs jumped out at me: lemon verbena, yarrow, St. John’s wort, rosemary, lavender. They grew quietly, swaying in the summer breeze. How had I missed them all these years?

I harvested my first flowers of St. John’s Wort that week; their little yellow star flowers were just beginning to open. From those precious buds I made my first infused oil.

I placed a jar of olive oil packed with blooms in the sun.

Two weeks later it was ruby-red and enriched with the blood of the flowers, a healing liquid called hypericin. Hypericin, I came to learn, has anti-inflammatory and astringent qualities that make it useful for healing burns, rashes and skin irritation. Amazing!

That scarlet oil sits proudly on my shelf today and I use it in several of my creations.

I often look at it, smile and think back to my first summer in love with herbs.

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