Cleaning the Herbal Way
an article by Gillie Whitewolf
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.
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 :
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.
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
(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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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].
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.