Monday, 25 April 2016

DIY Hand Sanitizer

Hand sanitizer doesn't take the place of washing you hands, but it's useful when you have little or no access to clean running water. Following the earthquakes here in Christchurch in September 2010 and again in February 2011 (plus all the after shocks) it got a lot of use in our house.

The combination of essential oils is based on Four Thieves. The story is that during a time of plague in medieval France four thieves were caught robbing the bodies of plague victims. They seemed to have some sort of immunity which they said was due to a combination of herbs, oils and vinegar. The thieves are supposed to have gained their freedom in return for sharing the concoction. 

While I can't say if the hand sanitizer will ward off the plague, the essential oils I've used used do have some germ-fighting properties.

Orange is antiseptic and is an anti-oxidant
Cinnamon Leaf is antibacterial, anti-fungal and antimicrobal
Clove Bud is antimicrobal and antibacterial
Rosemary is anti-fungal and antibacterial
Lavender is antibacterial and anti-viral

Hand Sanitizer

Place the aloe vera gel and vegetable glycerine in a bowl and stir to combine. In another bowl mix the witch hazel (or vodka) with the vitamin E oil. To this bowl add the following essential oils, stirring to combine after each addition -

This makes about 1/3 of cup. If you choose to use vitamin E oil the hand sanitizer will keep for up to 12 months.

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Thursday, 21 April 2016

Peach and Chilli Chutney

We have a Blackboy Peach tree down at the end of our garden. It was planted about 10 years ago and for the last couple of years we've had a great crop from it. A lot of the peaches have gone into the freezer and more have been made into jam. This year I decided to try something different so made this chutney.

If you're not familiar with Blackboy Peaches they're an heirloom variety with a deep red flesh - sometimes known as blood peaches.

This recipe works just as well with yellow or white fleshed peaches.

Peach and Chilli Chutney

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, sliced
  • 700g of stoned, peeled, chopped peaches
  • 200g brown sugar
  • 1-2 teaspoons dried chilli flakes or 3-4 small, finely chopped red chilli peppers
  • 1 heaped teaspoon minced ginger
  • 1 tablespoon ground cardamom
  • 1 tablespoon ground cumin
  • 1 cup apple cider vinegar

Heat the oil in a large pan and gently cook the onion until it begins to soften. Add all the remaining ingredients and stir until the sugar has dissolved. 

Bring to a steady boil, then reduce the heat. Simmer, uncovered, until most of the liquid has evaporated. This will take about an hour.

Spoon into sterilised jars and seal. The chutney can be eaten as soon as it's cooled, but the longer you leave it the better it tastes. Can be stored for about a year in a cool, dry place.

Makes about 900g.

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Monday, 18 April 2016

Easy to make Herbal Sleep Pillow

If you have trouble sleeping tucking a herbal sleep pillow into your pillowcase before you go to bed may help.

To make one you will need:

  • a muslin or soft cotton drawstring bag approx. 8cm x 12cm
  • 1/4 cup dried lavender buds
  • 1/4 cup dried chamomile flowers
  • 1/4 cup dried lemon balm leaves
  • 1/8 cup dried hop flowers
  • 1/8 cup dried rose petals (optional)
  • 3-4 drops each of chamomile and lavender essentials oils

Place the herbs into a non-metallic bowl and stir to combine. Add the essential oils a drop at a time and stir again. Loosely pack the herb mixture into the drawstring bag and tie it tightly shut. Do not overstuff the bag.

Stored in the cool, dark, dry place between uses the herb pillow will last for about two months. Unused herb mix can be stored in an airtight container in the same conditions.

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Sunday, 17 April 2016

How to make Mint Extract

Mint extract is very easy to make. You just need three things: mint, vodka and a clean glass jar with good lid.

Start with a couple of handfuls of mint leaves (no stalks). It doesn't matter what kind. I have common mint growing here in a large pot so that's what I use. Use only healthy leaves.

Wash the mint, then scrunch up the leaves in your hands - you want to bruise rather than completely crush the leaves. This helps the mint to release its oil.

Place the mint leaves in a 500ml jar. Pour over enough vodka that all the leaves are covered. You will need about 2 cups of vodka. If you have any persistent "floaters" gently push them under the vodka with a skewer. Cover with the lid, shake, then leave in a cool, dark place for at least a month. 

The longer you leave the mint to steep the stronger the extract will be. Once the extract is sufficiently minty strain out the leaves and bottle.

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Tuesday, 5 April 2016

Seven ways to use Chamomile

Chamomile is an easy to grow annual spring-flowering herb which self seeds readily. It does best grown in a part-shaded, well-drained spot .

1. Composting

Chamomile can help activate the composting process. Add chamomile to your your compost bin or pile to get things going.

2. Dark Circles

After being used to make tea chamomile tea bags can have a second life. Cooled, but still wet tea bags placed over your eyes can help to reduce dark shadows and soothe tired eyes. The used tea bags can then be added to the compost.

3. Companion Planting

Chamomile is an excellent companion plant. Sometimes referred as the "plant doctor" when planted next to a struggling plant it can help to revive that plant. It is said to improve the flavour of mint, onions and cabbages, but is best planted a good metre away from onions.

4. Chamomile Tea 

To make this you will need boiling water, teaspoon each of dried chamomile and dried lavender buds, a tea strainer and a tea cup.

Place the chamomile and lavender in the tea strainer and sit it on top of the cup. Pour in enough boiling water that the herbs are covered. Allow to infuse for about 10 minutes. By this time the tea is a drinkable temperature. Add lemon juice or honey to taste.

5. Hair

Steep one handful of chamomile flowers in a litre of boiling water for twenty minutes. When cooled this infusion can be used as a rinse to lighten and condition fair hair. Stored in the fridge this will keep for about two weeks.

6. Sunburn

A chamomile infusion made exactly the same way as above can be added to bath water to ease the effects of sunburn.

7. Chamomile tea for the garden

Place a handful of chamomile flowers in a bucket. Cover with cold water (about 2 litres) and leave to soak for 2 days. Strain out the flowers. The resulting liquid can be used to revive tired looking or struggling plants. It can be applied with a spray bottle or water the soil around the base of the plant sparingly.

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