Help Save the Monarch Butterfly with Asclepias Tuberosa, Butterfly Milkweed

Help Save the Monarch Butterfly with Asclepias Tuberosa, Butterfly Milkweed

Butterfly Milkweed (Asclepias Tuberosa) is a native plant that creates a wonder area of your garden for monarch butterflies. The Growers Exchange wants to encourage our gardening friends to set aside a sunny space in their gardens to help these majestic butterflies thrive and slow the decline of their population. Monarch’s exist because of milkweed plants.

The bad news: there can be no question that natural habitats, areas where monarch butterflies live, are being destroyed at an alarming rate. Habitat destruction, defined as changing an area in which a plant, animal or other organism lives to the point where that species can no longer survive. The destruction is generally described as either actual destruction, degradation or fragmentation. In the case of the Monarch butterfly, the major threat to their survival is the loss of milkweed habitat, which is an essential plant in their life cycle. According to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the counts of Monarch butterflies are trending down sharply, and their migration is now under threat.

The monarch butterfly population has declined over 80% in the last 20 years.

The good news: restoration of habitat can be achieved with very little effort on the part of concerned gardeners. You can easily offset this loss of a critical host plant in your own yard by planting milkweed, the vital host plant for Monarch butterflies. (more…)

Surprising Facts About Your Favorite Herbs and Spices

Surprising Facts About Your Favorite Herbs and Spices

Ever since humans discovered the many, powerful uses of herbs and spices, they’ve been fascinated by their smells, their tastes and their medicinal purposes. What many people fail to realize, is that the simple herbs and spices that are growing in their gardens and sitting in their kitchen cabinets have had important roles in the history of human civilization. Before modern refrigeration, spices were one of the only ways that people could keep their food from spoiling or enhance its flavor.

Herbs were around before the advent of contemporary medicine, so mixing plant ingredients together in a homeopathic remedy was the only option for relief from some illnesses. From the opening up of the spice trade in Asia in the Middle Ages to the misdirected spice seeking voyage that led to America, spices and herbs have played a powerful part in our legacy as a people. Here are some of the most storied tales of the most popular herbs and spices used today. (more…)

Biblical Herbs: Mints in the Bible

Biblical Herbs: Mints in the Bible

Plants are first mentioned in the Bible in the first chapter of the first book: “Then God said, ‘Let the earth bring forth grass, the herb that yields seed, and the fruit tree that yields fruit according to its kind…” (Genesis 1:11). Throughout the ages, the Hebrews have attributed holiness to many species of plants. The Scriptures associate feasts, rites and commandments with many plants and their cultivation. Early written information about herbs is found in the Bible back to the time of Moses or even earlier. In Exodus 12:22 Moses tells the children of Israel how to save their children by using the herb and lamb’s blood. “And you shall take a bunch of hyssop, dip it in the blood that is in the basin, and strike the lintel and the two doorposts with the blood that is in the basin.” In Numbers 19:6, 18 hyssop is again mentioned. Also, in 1 Kings 4:33 God gave Solomon wisdom, “And he (Solomon) spoke of trees, from the cedar tree of Lebanon even to the hyssop that springs out of the wall…” Psalms 51:7 refers to this plant: “Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.” While pride is symbolized by the majestic cedar of Lebanon in Jewish tradition, the lowly hyssop represents modesty and humility. At least eighteen plants have been considered for the hyssop of the Bible, but modern botanists have generally agreed that Syrian majoram (Origanum syriacum) is the likely plant. It seems to fit well with these verses. It was used to cleanse homes defiled by leprosy or death and came to symbolize cleanliness. Its fragrance and taste led it to be prized by the ancient Romans and the Greeks before them. Bridges and grooms wore crowns made of marjoram. It was also quite likely prized in the kitchen, as it is now.

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Herbs Associated with Halloween

Herbs Associated with Halloween

Folks in my neighborhood have taken Halloween to a whole new level;  it is incredible what a bit of technology will do for a holiday. Back in my time, we’d have a Casper mask with an elastic strap.  Very hard to breathe in that thing, so you were forever lifting it up for a breath of fresh air. Moms gave away homemade popcorn balls and candy apples.  You knew who was going to have the ‘good stuff’ (Milky Way bars were a favorite) and who to avoid (the elderly neighbor who thought handing out pennies was acceptable).  Gone are those days – we’ve got big scary spiders climbing up the sides of houses, and tombstones with automated skeletons waving from the ground. According to the National Retail Federation, Americans spent close to 9 billion dollars on Halloween in 2018.

But, the origins of Halloween have little to do with candy and zombie costumes.  Most of the ancient festivals associated with Halloween had to do with the harvest and magic.  The Halloween that we celebrate today didn’t arrive along a single path; it is a combination of traditions that tie transitioning seasons to the thin layer between life and death.  All of these traditions, the broomstick, the apples, the witches, have ancient roots. No image of Halloween is complete without witches and broomsticks, and when it comes to witches, we need to talk about HERBS! (more…)

An Introductory Guide to Ayurvedic Herbs

An Introductory Guide to Ayurvedic Herbs

The practice of Ayurvedic medicine originated in India thousands of years ago. According to the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health, the term Ayurveda is a combination of two Sanskrit words: ayur meaning life and veda meaning science or knowledge. Ayurveda therefore literally means the science and knowledge of life.

Many Ayurvedic practices became established long before the advent of written records, having been passed down through the generations by word of mouth. What constitutes the Ayurvedic Herbs Guide are three ancient books on Ayurvedic medicine, the Charaka Samhita, the Sushruta Samhita and the Astanga Hridaya, were written in Sanskrit over 2,000 years ago and are known as the Great Trilogy.

In its Benchmarks for Training in Ayurveda, the World Health Organization states that there are two types of Ayurveda experts: practitioners and dispensers. Within the practitioner category are two types of therapists: Ayurveda dieticians and panchakarma therapists. The former provide dietary counseling and make herbal recommendations. The latter provides a five-fold detoxification treatment involving massage, herbal therapy and other procedures. Again it’s a literal translation; pancha means five and karma means treatment. (more…)

10 Interesting, Unique Herbs & What to Do With Them

10 Interesting, Unique Herbs & What to Do With Them

The uses for herbs are extremely varied and widespread. While some cultures use herbs primarily in the kitchen, others use herbs as alternative approaches to healing or spiritual and ceremonial accompaniments.

Each herb has an interesting and unique history of both traditional and modern use, and you could spend days learning about one special herb in depth. Let’s take the shortcut and take a look at 10 unique herbs and explore some ideas about what to do with them. As always, be sure to consult your healthcare professional before using any herbs medicinally. (more…)