All About Herbs!

Lavender

Lavender
Lavandula angustifolia


Lavender has been treasured and loved for centuries due its many beneficial health properties and its one of a kind scent! Some of lavender’s medicinal actions include: alleviating stress headaches, reducing pain, healing skin conditions, promoting sleep, and bringing about a peaceful state of mind.  With so many beneficial, medicinal properties it is no surprise that lavender remains one of the most popular herbs.


Lavender is a member of the lamiaceae (mint) family, which is made up of many aromatic culinary herbs, including basil, mint, sage, rosemary, marjoram, oregano, and thyme. Lavandula is the plant’s genus, which is derived from the Latin word “to wash.” Due to the herb’s clean and fresh scent, the Romans used this herb to scent their baths, beds, clothes, and even hair! There are over 39 Lavandula species and, within the species, over 400 varieties!

Lavender is a perennial plant, meaning it can live for more than two years and we do not have to replant the herb each season. This herb falls into the shrub category, which is used to describe plants that have multiple main stems arising near the ground. Each summer the plant flowers and each winter the plant dies back. The reason lavender is able to continuously grow back is due to the fact that it has a rootstock. This part of the plant contains an underground stem with a healthy root system from which new growth can be produced. The first year of this herb’s life is dedicated to developing this root system. After the first year, lavender grows at a steady pace, producing plenty of flowers and returning each year. At full growth the herb can reach up to 3 feet tall!


We begin harvesting our lavender plants after 3 year-long growth cycles when the herb is mature and bears many flowers. Harvesting typically takes place in the spring and can be repeated up to 3 times due to the continuous growth of flowers. Lavender must be harvested before the flowers open, while the petals are still closed.  We collect the stems and place them on trays, where they air dry for 3-5 days. Once completely dried, we then separate the flowers one by one from their stem by hand.


Lavender is native to the Mediterranean and Middle Eastern regions and has historically played many roles. The use of lavender goes as far back as the ancient Egyptians, who used lavender oil in their mummification rituals. Roman legions carried lavender in their first aid kits to use as a disinfectant. In Elizabethan times, lavender was considered a lover’s flower, similar to the way the rose is viewed today. Queen Elizabeth I required that lavender jelly always be present on her dining table.  Lavender eventually made its way to the New World in 1620 by crossing the ocean with the pilgrims.


One of the many ways lavender can be used for its medicinal properties is topically, meaning on the surface of the skin. Skin conditions such as dryness, acne, eczema and dermatitis can all be alleviated with the use of lavender. Tannins are the active compounds found in lavender that have astringent properties. “Astringent” refers to how lavender aids in the skin-healing process of coagulation by contracting the skin tissue. Folks who have acne are often advised to use astringents if they have oily skin. Lavender oil can be used to ease muscle pain, arthritis and neuritis (nerve pain) through its “rubefacient” properties, which describe how the capillaries become dilated and increase circulation, therefore aiding in alleviating pain. The herb is also said to soothe bee stings and burns, making it a wonderful first aid remedy. Lavender has antiseptic properties due to the presence of active compounds known as  flavonoids. Flavonoids are known to possess anti-viral, anti-inflammatory, and anti-cancer properties.


When lavender is ingested there are a variety of medicinal properties that differ from health benefits gained through topical application. Lavender is a nervine, meaning it positively impacts the nervous system by promoting natural sleep, alleviating stress headaches, and soothing nerves. The herb also aids in healthy digestion, relieves flatulence, prevents bloating and soothes stomach pain.  Lavender is also antiemetic, which means that it aids in the prevention of vomiting and nausea, therefore useful in treating motion sickness.


Here at the Moon Valley Organics farmacy, we recently planted a variety of lavender plants for a new line of herbal tea infusions currently in development. At the moment, we are in the very exciting tasting stage, working on creating the perfect cup of tea; balanced in both flavor and health benefits. We are also very pleased to share that we have a new lavender Moon Melt Lotion Bar which will be offered during our test run exclusively online and at Pike Place Market. Other Moon Valley products that contain lavender include our Rejuvenation Rub, Peppermint Foot Rub, Lavender Calendula Cleansing Body Bar, Mint Sea Mineral Cleansing Body Bar, and Mint Lavender Foaming Liquid Hand Soap. We love adding lavender to our products for the amazing scent and health benefits it provides you with.


Burdock

Time for some herbal insight! Here at Moon Valley Organics we cultivate organic burdock, which is a valuable herbal remedy for skin conditions, such as eczema, psoriasis, and rheumatoid arthritis. You can find burdock in one of our top-selling skincare products--the Eczacalm Salve.
 
Burdock’s Latin name is Arctium Lappa. Arctium translates to “a bear,” which is referring to the rough coated fruits on the plant. Lappa translates to “seize,” referencing the burs that cling to everything that passes by. Burdock, belongs to the Asteraceae plant family. The name Asteraceae comes from the Latin word Aster, which translates to “star”. This star reference is used to describe the flower’s beautiful star-like appearance.
 
Burdock is a biennial plant, meaning the plant has a lifecycle of 2 years. In the first year, all of the energy is directed into growing the taproot, whereas in the second year more energy is directed into the stem growing taller and flowering. We sow our burdock seeds in the springtime. It takes about 1-2 weeks for the little seeds to sprout into seedlings that are then distributed throughout our herb fields. Burdock requires partial shade to full sun, which makes our Northwest Summer climate the ideal location for them to thrive in. After about 3 months, the root is ready to be harvested. Our roots can grow up to 2 feet in length and some burdock root varieties can get up to 9 feet in length!
The roots, leaves, and seeds can all be used for various herbal remedies. Here at Moon Valley Organics, we are most interested in the roots of burdock, because that is where the skin healing properties are located. However, we don’t waste any part of the plant. The leaves are edible and can be cooked like spinach. Once the hard outer shell has been removed, the stem is also edible and resembles water chestnuts. You can find burdock root in many Asian recipes, as it is rich in nutrients and has many beneficial health properties. We save our seeds so that we can continue to create Eczacalm Salve with the same strength consistency. Anything left over from the plant we compost and incorporate back into the soil.
 
The root applied topically has a variety of beneficial healing properties, which include antioxidants and immune boosters. The following vitamins can be found in the root: Vitamin E, Vitamin C, Vitamin B9, Vitamin B2, Vitamin B6 and Vitamin B3. Both Vitamin C and E are powerful natural antioxidants that help the human body stave off infections, cancer, and neurological conditions. Burdock root is antibacterial in nature, meaning it kills or inhibits the growth of unwanted microorganisms. Polyacetylenes are the active component that fight disease-causing-bacteria and fungi. The root contains antirheumatic properties that alleviate and prevent rheumatism, which encompasses swelling, inflammation and pain in joints and muscles. Traditionally, the Cherokee Native Americans used burdock to treat rheumatism. Antiscorbutic is another property found in the burdock root, which works to prevent skin hemorrhages. Lastly, burdock root is an alterative, meaning it aids in restoring your skin back to normal health.  
 
If you have ever used our Ezcacalm Salve, now you know a little more about one of the powerful herbs that makes this medicinal salve so effective. We hope that by sharing this information you have a better understanding of how burdock is actively working on your skin. Here at the Moon Valley Organics farmacy, we put a lot of love into growing each and every Burdock plant. It is truly an amazing herb with so many medicinal and health benefits.  
Fun fact
If you have ever used anything with velcro, you can thank burdock for inspiring the invention! In the early 1940’s, George de Mestral, a Swiss inventor, became curious with how burdock seeds kept getting caught to his clothing and his dog’s fur. He looked at the seeds under a microscope to discover a hook and loop system. Mestral realized this same system could be used to join other things together, and so Velcro was created.

Arnica

     If you have ever had sore muscles, back pain, or aching feet cured by a Moon Valley product; chances are, arnica played a big role in your relief. Since the 16th century, when an indigenous North American tribe used it to prepare tea for easing back pain, arnica has been an integral part of folk and homeopathic remedies for various ailments. The happy, bright yellow, daisy-like flower also referred to as Wolf’s Bane and mountain tobacco is a perennial native to central Europe, Siberian Mountains, and the majestic mountains of British Columbia. There are multiple types of arnica grown worldwide, but the most common used medicinally is Arnica montana.


     Arnica is such a versatile herb that the ailments it heals are almost endless. It has been touted for its amazing anti-inflammatory and analgesic properties. Common uses for arnica include: treating bone fractures, traumatic injury, bruises, rashes, sore muscles, sprains, and shock associated with burns and injury. In Russian medicine, it has also been used to treat uterine hemorrhage, myocarditis, angina pectoris, and cardiac insufficiency. Famous writer Goethe once credited the herb for saving his life when it brought down his fever.
 

 

     

     While Arnica montana is an amazing remedy for all types of aches, pains and ailments; it is also gaining popularity in the beauty and personal care world. Arnica infused products are being used by chiropractors, massage therapists, and pedicurists around the world to help bring relief to patients and clients. It is also frequently used by professional athletes as a pre-activity supplement to thwart muscle and joint soreness. The anti-inflammatory properties are an effective way to reduce under-eye puffiness, and in turn is being added to some modern eye creams. There are also new reports of arnica being used in hair tonics and dandruff preparations.

 
     A variety of methods are available to utilize arnica; by making a tea, ointment, or tincture; though ingesting arnica orally should only be done with supervision from an herbalist or physician. Here at Moon Valley, we capture the essence of arnica by steeping it in in safflower seed oil for 24-48 hours. We the strain the bulk of the oil out and then run the leftover arnica through an herb press to extract every last bit possible.
 
 
 
     Often the effectiveness of an ingredient depends on what it is paired with and the synergy those elements create. Moon Valley adores arnica for its remarkable healing powers, and we are proud to include it in three of our most loved products. In our Muscle Rub, arnica is combined with the warming, pain-relieving qualities of clove bud oil and ginger root, the circulatory powers of safflower flowers and orange essential oil, the calming quality of lobelia leaf, and the heating, pain-reducing properties of cayenne and habanero. This unique blend allows for penetration to bring relief deep into the muscles. The uplifting Rejuvenating Rub and invigorating Peppermint Foot Rub pair arnica with the anti-inflammatory, healing, and soothing abilities of calendula, the soothing and regenerating properties of comfrey, the pain relieving and circulation stimulating powers of lavender essential oil and the ability of mint essential oil to assist with the absorption of herbs into the body. Rejuvenating Rub eases aches and pains from injury, exertion, and arthritis. Here on the herb farm, we also use it for less conventional ailments than a sore back: when applied to the shoulders, neck, and temples it works as a wonderful headache remedy, and also an instant relief for sunburns.

Calendula

 

If you’ve read Moon Valley Organics’ charismatic product packaging, you’ve seen organic Calendula in the ingredient list or description. Calendula, more commonly known as the Marigold, has been widely used as a delicious culinary and an effective medicinal herb since the beginning of time.

The rich, golden petals of the Calendula flower are used in traditional Greek, Mediterranean and Middle Eastern dishes. The opulent dye from the petals has customarily been used to color various butters and cheeses. When different mediums are used, lush yellows, browns and orange tones are extracted to dye fabric.

During the Civil War and World War I, Calendula was used to curb hemorrhaging and as an antiseptic on the battlefield. Today, it is more vastly used for a number of skin conditions such as Eczema and Psoriasis due to its superb healing properties. Our organic Calendula can be used safely wherever there is an inflammation of the skin, whether due to infection or physical damage. The multiuse herb is ideal for first-aid treatment of minor burns, and scalds. When ingested orally, Calendula can decrease muscle spasms, reduce fever, and oral inflammation. In our topical formulas, our organic Calendula provides anti-bacterial, anti-viral, anti-septic, and anti-inflammatory relief as well amplifying wound healing.

 

Every spring, the sea horse shaped seeds are planted and given time to sprout in our greenhouse. After the last frost, 9000 plants are transplanted by hand into the rich soil of our charming valley. The lush orange flowers come into bloom during the months of July and August, and the flowers are then handpicked, providing us with the highest quality organic Calendula. The buds are then laid out on screensfor drying in our turn of the century barn loft and cared for by our devout herbalists to preserve the essence of summer.

After our organic Calendula has been dried, it is steeped at a low temperature in a safflower oil for up to 72 hours. Once the steeping is completed, the oil is strained from the herbs and the herbs are put in a press to extract every last little bit of the herb’s essence. The press extraction provides the most potent and concentrated oil, similar to pressing a tea bag after steeping to pull out the richest darkest tea. The byproduct of this process is then composted and the organic Calendula infused safflower oil is used as the base for most of our products.

Whether you’re looking for much needed comforting & healing for dry, cracked lips or an essential, versatile must-have wound healer for your first-aid kit or medicine cabinet, Moon Valley Organics’ resident herbalists have created just what your organic body care loving heart desires!

July 28, 2014 by Aaron Otto