pale leaf Gaia's Garden leaves




Spring Cleaning the Herbal Way
an article by Gillie Whitewolf

cauldronCleaning the home can seem an arduous and tiring task - but it doesn't have to be! Open the windows and tackle the cleaning from the top downwards and in a logical order so you don't trapse dirt around or create more dust in rooms you've already cleaned. I've always found housework much easier during the waning moon phase, so if you can time your spring clean to a waning moon you're already starting off with a lighter load.

The main thing that used to put me off cleaning was how the cleaning products made me feel. My breathing would become tight and irritated, my skin would literally be burning from some products, with rashes flaring up where contact had been made, or the skin would dry and crack in minutes. My mood would change, I would feel irritable and quite nauseous... all sounds a bit over the top? (or just an excuse to get out of cleaning)? The chemicals which go into our household cleaning products are frightening - and are dangerous to our health as well as the environment. Thankfully there are more and more products being created for the eco-friendly house, but you don't really need to be buying any off-the-shelf products - have more fun, and know exactly what you're using, by creating your own natural solutions and using herbs around the home. Here's a few suggestions to get you started :

A strong infusion of Rosemary makes an ideal solution for cleaning food cupboards and shelves and for wiping down kitchen sufaces.

Lemon Juice is an excellent alternative to bleach, and is great at tackling grease and oily surfaces : Add Lemon Juice to the washing up water when grease is a problem; use lemon juice diluted in a little water to wipe around the inside of the fridge; use neat on greasy cooker surfaces; or use to clean tarnished silver, copper or brass [wash off with cold water and dry with a soft cloth]. Better than any 'off-the-shelf' cleaning product and gentle enough to use on your body too - unlike most other products designed to clean up after oily work lemon juice will leave your hands super soft and fresh and you can scrabble your fingers in the pithy white inner casing of a squeezed lemon half to clean your fingernails.

Tea Tree essential oil has remarkable antifungal and anti-bacterial properties - add several drops to water and use to wipe down bathroom surfaces, shower curtains and wooden items prone to mould / fungi.

Floors (tiled, vinyl or lino style) can be mopped clean with a strong infusion of rosemary, thyme and lavender. You could add a few drops of tea-tree essential oil, although I would advise against using essential oils on surfaces which animals and young children or babies sit or walk on, just to be on the safe side.

Windows can be cleaned with vinegar and brown paper or get squeezing that lemon again and use fresh lemon juice and water with a clean, soft cloth.

For hand washing fabrics try a decoction of soapwort instead of your usual detergent. You may like to include an infusion of lavender for fragrance as well as its antibacterial action, or peppermint for its deodorising action.

I like to fumigate the home using rosemary and sage, cleansing the space of negative energies and helping to prevent infection spreading during the cold and 'flu season. You can use a smudge stick or burn the herbs in a heatproof censer, adding more herbs as required. For an all over cleansing start in the highest room and work your way slowly around the room (I like to stand in the centre of each room for a while as well as walking around the perimeter), using a feather or your hand to help waft the smoke around the spaces. Continue out the door and on to the next room, moving your way logically through the house, reaching into all the corners and passages as well, and working out towards the back door.

If you have non-human animals as part of your family I'm sure you're more than aware that the warmer months to follow tend to bring a few unwanted guests into your home. (Yes, I am talking about fleas not door-to-door salesmen). Make sure you get in to all the nooks and crannies when you're dusting and hoovering, remove any cat / dog beds and cushions and give them a good beating outside (the beds and cushions - not the dogs or cats!). You could also make up an infusion of herbs such as yellow dock, rosemary, peppermint and catnip and use to spray around their beds. If you don't mind strewing herbs across your floors then try any of the following : lavender, peppermint, rosemary, basil, eucalyptus, fleabane or pennyroyal.
Yellow dock is a useful remedy for fleas and mites - I use an infusion of yellow dock and catnip to give the cats a flannel-wash, making sure I soak the fur and massage the infusion into their skin. Most cats will shred your arms before they let you give them a bath, but you may find them more docile if you sit gently with them and slowly wash them with a flannel. Dry them off with a clean, dry towel afterwards.
If you're feeling creative why not make a flea-repellent pet cushion stuffed with dried herbs. I like to use lavender, peppermint and rosemary, with the addition of marjoram and catnip (and maybe a little valerian root) if it's a cushion for a cat. Dogs like aniseed, so you could include some aniseed in a dog cushion.
Add a few drops of peppermint essential oil to a cotton wool pad or tissue and place in your hoover - this will help freshen the air as you vacuum and is an excellent flea remedy! [Not suitable for upright vacuum cleaners with a bag].

Don't forget the household plants when you spring clean the home - gently wipe dust off leaves and repot plants where necessary. Plants will also welcome a mineral rich feed to give them a boost - try a (cooled) infusion of nettles and comfrey diluted in rain water, or tap water which has been left to stand for a few hours (this allows some of the chemicals to evaporate). To re-energise tap water try stirring / swirling the water clockwise (for those in the Northern Hemisphere) - it sounds crazy but it does seem to improve the quality of the water.

Spring Cleaning Yourself
Time to rid yourself of dry, lifeless winter skin and emerge radiant and full of the joys of spring. A simple body scrub can be made with ground almonds but can be more effective used as a mask in the following way : Add enough milk to the ground almonds to form a paste. Apply this paste to clean skin and leave to dry for 10 - 15 minutes. When removing the mask use circular motions to gently exfoliate the skin, wash off with water and pat dry with a clean towel. You may like to apply a little jojoba or sweet almond oil into your skin afterwards.

If you don't like exfoliating masks try this simple lemon mask - simply wipe a fresh lemon slice over your face (or paint on fresh lemon juice) leave for 10 - 15 minutes or as long as you desire, and then wash off with cool water, and pat skin dry. Tones, cleanses and softens!
Lemon juice will also help remedy dry, itching skin left behind by the cold of winter. Wipe on the lemon juice, leave and then rinse.

For a facial steam to wake up your winter skin and get the circulation going try a blend of dried rosemary, nettle leaves and fennel seeds. Place a handful of herbs into a wide bowl, add up to 1 litre of boiling water, place large towel over head and lean over the bowl. Steam for at least 10 mins or for as long as it is comfortable.

Lemon juice adds a wonderful shine to hair and if you're treating your hair to a hot oil treatment lemon juice is the best way of removing the oil - simply apply fresh lemon juice to your hair before the final rinse. To remedy dandruff try rubbing lemon juice or a strong infusion of sage or rosemary into the scalp and roots.

The festive celebrations of the winter season usually leave our bodies crying out for a detox and a little tender loving care. Nettle tea helps your body throw off toxins and cleanses the entire system, try a blend of stinging nettles, dandelion leaves and lemon balm for a soothing detox cuppa. Infuse covered for at least 5 minutes, strain and add fresh lemon juice or local honey to taste. Delicious!
Herbal infusions are a great way of getting more minerals, vitamins and nutrients into our diet. An antioxidant rich cuppa can be made from a blend of peppermint, catnip and nettle.

Remember that our diet, lifestyle and immediate environment play an important role in our health - both on the inside and the outside. Get rid of those unhealthy chemical packed products and processed foods and welcome a more healthy, herbful life.

*                *                *         

Giving up smoking?
Coltsfoot (Tussilago farfara) is a fantastic herb for clearing out the lungs, is one of the main ingredients of herbal tobaccos and has been used for at least 2000 years for remedying respiratory problems such as bronchitis, whooping cough, asthma etc... If you're finding it hard to stop smoking tobacco, try mixing in coltsfoot, varying the amounts each time so eventually you are left with just coltsfoot - which doesn't contain nicotine and is not likely to be habit forming. There are some concerns over the safety of long-term use, although this does tend to be more so with drinking infusions of coltsfoot as opposed to the smoking.

Red Clover (Trifolium pratense) makes a delicious herbal cuppa and I've heard of people using it as replacement chewing tobacco too. Red Clover is very good for you and has an age-old reputation as a cancer preventing herb. The flowers contain the anti-cancer compound genistein.

Carrots are rich in carotenoids, which help prevent cancer. They're a good, tasty choice for nibbles - if you cut them lengthways and nibble slowly you can even satisfy that feeling of holding a ciggie.


pale leaves

Gaia's Garden Library
Non Fiction Section : Gaia's Garden Herblore | Susun S. Weed Articles | Articles and Musings
Fiction Section : Short Stories & Prose| As Told By Cat | Public Domain Texts| Poetry

Shop | Library | Gallery | Forum | Contact | Links