Herbalist offers simple solutions to make at home

  • Hannah Jacobson-Hardy of Sweet Birch Herbals in Ashfield. STAFF PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

  • Sweet Birch Herbals farm store on Creamery Road in Ashfield. STAFF PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

  • Hannah Jacobson-Hardy of Sweet Birch Herbals in her garden. STAFF PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

  • Sweet Birch Herbals in Ashfield. STAFF PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

  • Daisy, an American alpine goat at Sweet Birch Herbals in Ashfield, checks out the camera. STAFF PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

For The Recorder
Published: 8/9/2021 2:34:43 PM

Editor’s note: The syrup recipe has been updated.

A stressful experience at college and health issues that arose out of that stress led Hanna Jacobson-Hardy to more healthy lifestyle choices and a love for herbal medicine.

“I developed headaches and (gastrointestinal) problems and I didn’t want to take medications,” she said.

Jacobson-Hardy, 34, of Ashfield, runs Sweet Birch Herbals. She offers instruction and herbal products that range from immunity boosters to tick repellant. For instruction, she took courses at the University of Massachusetts Amherst and then studied/interned with Chris Morano, who runs Clearpath School of Herbal Medicine in Wendell.

“He is full of wisdom. I apprenticed with him for seven years,” she said.

She opened her herbal business in 2015.

“I also see clients for wellness consultations,” she said.

She is clear to say it is important to educate yourself if working with herbal medicine.

“Don’t just watch YouTube videos or do a quick Google check,” she said. “Take a class or at least consult with someone you trust who is more educated on the topic.”

There are simple and relatively easy preparations one can make at home as well and Jacobson-Hardy offered some ideas and recipes.

Oils, salves and lotions (topicals)

“You can diffuse herbs in a good quality oil or you can add beeswax to make a salve,” she said, adding that the addition of water is what creates a lotion. “Water makes absorption easier.”

One of Jacobson-Hardy’s favorite salves is a “Heal All” salve.

“It’s good for cuts, scrapes, bruises and bug bites,” she said.

In a pint jar, mix equal parts of dried calendula, comfrey leaf or root, chickweed and plantain leaf to create about a cup of herbs.

“It’s important if you use or collect your own herbs to be sure they are at least 80 percent dry. Moisture will add to the likelihood of bacteria or molds,” she said.

Then pour two cups of oil over the herbs in the jar, stir well, and cover and store for two weeks in a dry dark place such as a cupboard.

“Make sure all the herbs are covered. You can also stir the oil diffusion every couple of days,” Jacobson-Hardy said.

After two weeks, use a fine strainer or muslin cloth to strain off the herbs. Jacobson-Hardy said the diffusion can be used as is or warm the oil (not boil) and add a quarter-cup of beeswax to make a salve. Stir in the beeswax and let it set up.

Digestion issues

Jacobson-Hardy said teas or tinctures can help as digestive aids. Tinctures are made up of herbs distilled in alcohol (also sometimes cider vinegar or glycerin) for a concentrate.

“The alcohol pulls out the medicinal properties. You can make a quantity of a tincture and it’s good for at least three years,” she said.

Tinctures are easy to take and are diluted in water or other beverages. Jacobson-Hardy said that what a person uses depends on a lot of factors relating to what is causing the digestive upset.

“My favorite things to use for stomach upset are lavender and chamomile because they both calm digestion and anxiety. You tend to get anxious when you have digestive issues. Sometimes I also add catnip to the mix,” she said.

To prepare a tea, use one teaspoon of dried (mixed) herbs to one cup of water. Boil the water and pour over the herbs; don’t boil them. Then let the tea steep for about 15 minutes and strain.

“You can use a teapot, a glass jar or a tea ball,” she said.

Sleep

“First off, if I am taking something for sleep, I like to take a tincture. I don’t want to drink a cup of tea right before bed because I don’t want to have to get up and pee in the middle of the night, which defeats the purpose,” said Jacobson-Hardy.

Herbs she uses to make a tincture include passion flower, chamomile, skullcap, catnip and California poppy. She suggests two droppers-full of a sleep tincture before bed.

To make a sleep tincture, mix two parts chamomile and one part each of dried passionflower, California poppy, skullcap and catnip in a quart mason jar, filling it about a fifth of the way up with the mixture. Then fill the rest of the jar with alcohol. Brandy is often used.

Jacobson-Hardy said it is a good idea to have cloth or wax paper between the metal lid and the solution as the alcohol can corrode the lid. Shake and label.

Set in a dry, dark location for two weeks and occasionally shake the contents a bit. Strain once the herbs have diffused. Tinctures do not need to be refrigerated.

“These are nervine herbs that help to calm the system, promote drowsiness and relax your muscles,” she said.

Simple colds/sore throat

“Honeys, especially herbal honeys, are great for sore throats as honey is antibacterial and anti-fungal,” said Jacobson-Hardy.

She likes to add bee propolis to honey for sore throats.

“It tingles the back of the throat,” she said.

Using honey, one can make syrups that help boost the immune system and sooth symptoms of respiratory illness and irritation.

Combine three parts elderberry flower — one part ginger and one half part of cinnamon equaling a cup of dried herbs; simmer in four cups of water until half the volume. Then strain and add to a cup of honey. Stir and bottle.

“This is an immune booster and is antiviral. The ginger and cinnamon are warming and improve circulation, which helps things move out of the body,” she said.

For sinuses, Jacobson-Hardy said doing a thyme steam (boiling water over a pot, adding fresh or dried herbs and, with a towel over the head, inhaling the steam) helped her boyfriend recover from an early case of COVID-19.

Plant allies

“It’s not just some woo-woo thing. There is a science behind the fact that plants have evolved right along with us. They have their own immune systems that help them ward off disease and pests,” said Jacobson-Hardy.

She said plants can be used to “bring their immune systems into ours,” adding that many of us use herbs for culinary uses often such as basil, thyme, oregano, etc.

“Many of them have volatile oils that have antiviral/antibacterial properties,” she said.

For more information go to sweetbirchherbals.com.

Cris Carl is an avid local gardener, licensed therapist and certified herbalist. She is an experienced journalist who has written for the Recorder for many years. You can reach her at cstormfox57@gmail.com.


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