Row by Row Episode 151: Herb Basics 101

Everyone knows what herbs are and what we use them for on a daily basis but these wonderful plants have more to them than just their flavoring properties. We spoke with Lauren Dorminey, the creator of Wild Herbs of Iolita (https://www.instagram.com/wild.herbs.of.iolita/), about how she uses herbs and some of the lesser-known things about a few of them.

Wild Herbs of Iolita

Lauren, who considers herself an herbalist and a forager, began her company a few years ago after beginning to work with herbs and foraging for local wild plants to use in her products. The name came a little later after she looked into her ancestry where she found the first recorded female ancestor in her family named Prudence Iolita Littleheart. Iolita was a member of the Cherokee and as such Lauren knew that local herbs and other flora would have played a larger role in the day-to-day lives of Iolita’s people. In that knowledge she found a deeper connection to her foreberrer and decided to honor her with the name.

In the early days of her business Lauren began looking into herbs and other plants that could be burned for their aromatic and cleansing properties, be it in a spiritual or medicinal application. She would go out into the local forests, forage for wild herbs and flowers, then bundle them together with cedars and other hardwoods along with sage. These bundles then could be burned for their beautiful aromas.

Soon, the directions of her business blossomed into other areas and she began to make teas and tinctures from the local flora around her. At times she found that she needed other ingredients for her various products and began growing a greater variety of herbs, like lavender and sage, in her garden. Lauren has even found a way to take the painful stinging nettle and use it for its natural properties; taking this ‘nuisance’ plant and turning it into a ‘beneficial’ herb.

Herbs

According to Wikipedia, herbs, in general, use, are “plants with savory or aromatic properties that are used for flavoring and garnishing food, for medicinal purposes, or for fragrances; excluding vegetables and other plants consumed for macronutrients.” Interestingly, the world’s largest herb is the banana plant. 

We went over a few selections of the herbs we carry and asked Lauren to give us a little more insight on them and any alternate uses for them.

Bouquet Dill

The Bouquet Dill is the most popular variety that we carry. This plant will get to be about 30 inches tall with a 45-day maturity and grows well in zones 3 – 9. Dill is most famously used as a flavoring ingredient in the pickling process for dill pickles. Lauren also uses the clusters of little yellow flowers in her bouquets. It also has been used to treat stomach issues, headaches, boils, and helps with babies that have excess gas.

Basil

We carry several varieties of basil with Italian Basil, Thai Basil, Lemon Basil, and Genovese Basil are just a few.

Italian Basil, like most basil varieties, is known to have poor germination. It is typically recommended to sow several seeds and then when needed. This variety will reach 24 – 30 inches tall and does well in containers. Basil is mostly used in cooking with the food it is included in typically considered “comfort food”. This is with good reason as basils are known to have antidepressant properties as well as antiseptic, among others.

Thai Basil is excellent for cooking due to its high heat properties. Like its Italian cousin, it has antidepressant qualities and can help stabilize your mood.

Lemon Basil has a lemony taste to it, hence the name, and Lauren says it goes well in a cocktail or with cucumber.

Genovese Basil is highly aromatic and goes well on pizzas, in pestos, and other sauces.

Thyme

Thyme does well in zones 5 – 9 and will reach 6 – 12 inches tall. Lauren notes that bees love thyme and the plant will bring beneficial insects to your garden. She likes to take thyme and infuse it into honey to give it an herbal flavoring to be used on cheeses. Thyme can also be used to combat asthma, fever, headaches, high cholesterol, and many other things.

Garlic Chives

Garlic Chives do well in zones 3 – 10. Chives, while being a staple in many, many dishes, is along considered a blood cleanser and digestion aid.

Italian Parsley

Italian Parsley will reach 12 inches tall by maturity. This plant has a large number of benefits other than being a food additive. It is known to be an expectorant, diuretic, and laxative among many other things.

Broadleaf Sage

Broadleaf Sage will grow up to 40 inches tall and does well in zones 4 -8. Sage is a major additive in lots of foods due to the fact it is a carminative, meaning it adds to the digestion of heavier foods. This herb could be considered a “cure-all” as it helps to alleviate so many issues when used medicinally. Lauren uses sage in teas and recommends gargling sage tea to help with sinus and respiratory issues.

Borage

Borage will grow up to 24 inches tall. Lauren points out that this herb was written about by Pliny the Elder and was utilized by the crusaders as it was believed to prompt courage. She enjoys freezing the flowers to use in summer-time cocktails and lemonades.

Tarragon

Tarragon, like wormwood and mugwort, is an artemisia. This means it has sedative properties and can help to give you a good night’s sleep if you are having issues with sleep.

Italian Oregano

Italian Oregano has antifungal and antibacterial properties. Lauren says it works well as a salve to fight athlete foot or other fungal skin issues.

Yarrow

Yarrow is Lauren’s favorite herb and it is native to North America. She says it works well to help cuts heal faster when used as a poultice due to the plant’s antiseptic and antibacterial properties. Traditionally the plant was used by butchers and blacksmiths to be quickly applied to any accidental injuries for faster healing. This herb can also be made into teas to combat fevers, headaches, and many other ailments

Resources

Lauren bought along a few books that she uses to help her in her knowledge of herbs. The first of which was ‘A Georgia Food Forest’ that is filled with 180 edible perennial plants found in zone 8. The next was ‘Mountain Medicine’, and the last book was a birthday gift from her mother, ‘The Lost Book of Herbal Remedies’. 

When using herbs for their medicinal purposes, be sure to research them first. Some are not recommended if you are taking certain prescriptions such as blood thinners and heart medications.

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