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Ask a Herbalist - February 2023

Updated: May 29, 2023

Welcome to our new blog feature!

Have you ever wondered what a particular herb can be used for or what herb to use for certain health conditions or how to grow herbs or harvest them? Every day at our shop or via email we have people asking us questions about herbs and how to use herbs in all aspects of their lives. As those of you who have met us know herbs are our passion and we love sharing this passion with others, and this is why we created this interactive blog to hopefully answer your questions in a place where it can educated a wider audience of people.

Participation is easy – you simply email or private message us through our Facebook or Instagram pages and on the and last Monday of each month we will answer your questions. We ask you to keep your questions fairly general so they will be of interest to most readers and we also ask you to only ask one question per email. To protect your privacy, when we answer questions, we will only list initials not full names. In each blog we will be answering 2 to 3 questions on a range of topics but don’t worry we will definitely answer everyone’s questions as the weeks go along. We promise not to forget you.

Thanks everybody for sending your questions in, keep them coming. Let’s get started!

I just quit smoking, is there an herb to help my lungs? – A.G.

Congratulations on taking that major step! Smoking is so hard for most people to overcome, so kudos to you for doing that.

If we could choose one herb to support the whole respiratory system it would be Mullein (Verbascum thapsus). This wonderful indigenous plant grows abundantly throughout the Kootenay region (and many areas of Canada and the Northern US). For the lungs we primarily use the leaves and it is best taken as a tea or tincture in this situation. Mullein opens the airways and can heal the bronchioles and the alveoli of the lungs. It is great for almost all lung issues from colds and coughs to Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disorders (COPD). It helps to thin mucous and allows us to more easily cough it up while it reduces inflammation and soothes the lung tissue. Definitely the perfect herb for your situation.

Just one tip – if you are making this herb into a tea make sure you use a very fine strainer as the tiny hair like material on the leaves can be irritating to the throat if swallowed. If you would like to learn how to make mullein tea check out this great description at wikiHow

I have seen you mention lemon thyme in some of your recipes, is it hard to grow? - S.B.

Lemon Thyme (Thymus x citriodora 'Lemon') has an amazing lemon fragrance and flavor combined with a deep earthy undertone of regular thyme. Definitely one of our favourite herbs it is wildly popular now for cooking and tea-making.

It is really quite easy to grow and is best in the ground in growing zones 5 to 9 or if you live outside those zones it can be grown in pots and taken in during the winter. While seed starting at home is possible, the seedlings of all thyme varieties are slow-growing, so purchasing and propagating plants is really the best way to get going on growing this herb. Nurseries in the Creston area do carry this plant. To grow choose a sunny location; lemon thyme tolerates partial shade, but full sun is definitely its happy place. Next, make sure soil drainage is excellent; it is a Mediterranean plant and doesn’t like soggy roots. It is reasonably good in dry weather and giving it a thorough watering once a week is important (more frequently while it is getting established in the ground).

Once lemon thyme is established, it can be harvested throughout the year (we’ve even cut a bit in the middle of winter, it still smells and tastes great!). Cut the stems you want to use, almost to the base of the plant. Be careful not to remove more than 1/3 of the plant at any time to ensure it can bounce back for more harvests. To dry lemon thyme, gather it into small bundles and hang it upside down indoors, or spread out on screens out of direct sun, until it feels really dry. Store in jars out of the light.

To help you get start using this great herb we’ve included a yummy recipe below.

White Chocolate Lemon Thyme Shortbread Bars

1 cup unbleached white flour

2 tablespoons chopped fresh thyme leaves or 2 teaspoons dried

1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt

½ cup butter, at room temperature

½ cup icing sugar

2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1/2 cup good quality white chocolate chips

1 teaspoon butter

Place an oven rack in the center of the oven. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. line an 8 by 8-inch baking pan with parchment paper and grease with butter.

In a small bowl combine flour, lemon thyme and salt. Set aside. Using an electric hand mixer or a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat together the butter and icing sugar (tip - start on a slow speed or the icing sugar flies up everywhere!!!). Gradually increasing to high speed until light and fluffy, about 45 to 60 seconds. Beat in the lemon juice and vanilla. Reduce the speed to low and gradually add the flour mixture. Using damp fingers, press the dough into the prepared pan. Bake for 30 minutes until golden. Cool for 30 minutes. Melt white chocolate and butter either in the microwave or in a small pot over simmering water. If using microwave use short bursts of no longer than 10 seconds at a time. If in a double boiler make sure the water isn't touching the bottom of the pot with the chocolate in it. You need to melt white chocolate slowly or it goes grainy. The idea is to melt the white chocolate about 1/2 way and then gently stir to finish the melting process. When fully melted spread over the top of the bars and the allow to cool and harden.

Our next Ask a Herbalist Blog is Monday March 13, 2023, so start emailing or sending via social media your questions, we're excited to share what herbal information we can with you!

All material contained herein is provided for general information purposes only and should not be considered medical advice or consultation. Contact a reputable healthcare practitioner if you are in need of medical care.

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Caroline Collier
Caroline Collier
Feb 28, 2023

Hello Ladies. I have lots of black currents still in our freezer. I'd like to make a Ribena-type of drink but am not sure how to go about this. I understand that Ribena is no longer considered so healthy since there is so much sugar. I guess I would go easy on that score. I have used an old steamer-juicer in the past, but it was my mother's and now rusting. Not sure if I should invest in a new one...? I was thinking to just let them defrost naturally and slowly heat in a large pot on the stove...with a little water. We also have saskatoons; would they be good together? What kind of sweetener would you use? T…

Replying to

Thanks for getting in touch. I think the pot with a little water should work, I've done it like that myself. Just crush the berries while their cooking to extract as much juice as possible. Keep the temperature low as well so the liquid doesn't evaporate off. Once it's off the heat, honey would be a good addition. If you plan to can it to preserve it, I suggest adding a bit of lemon juice or citric acid to help keep it from going bad too quickly (like you do with jams). Have fun with it! Does anyone else have any suggestions on how best she could do this? PS/ black current leaves and berries are wonderfully medicinal, so you've inspired …

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