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Witch tricks

Ok, so this is another non-food related post.  I better watch out, I might just lose my following.. 

The funny thing is that I still spend most of my time cooking up a storm, and I remain just as enamoured with the kitchen and wild edibles, but I guess it’s become just so normal and day to day that as time goes by, I seldom think to take photos or write about it.  I was all about doing that five years ago.   I will get back to it no doubt – no choice but be all consumed by cooking and putting up the wild stuff as the season takes hold..  But for now, I'm still all about the witch tricks..   And some of you asked for recipes, so here goes.  Following up on my last post http://soupnancy.squarespace.com/blog-journalessays/2012/4/14/almost-a-witch.html

 my burgeoning laboratory

Some recipes and tricks from my witch’s den

(g means goutte=drop, not gram)

I apologise in advance for common names as opposed to Latin, not to mention French and English mixed.. It’s my way, how my Quebec mind works, true to the fact that my blog is for fun, not a reference for every other budding witchdoctor out there.. While I am careful (about the true name in one language or another) and honest, I don’t need or want to feel the need to be technical..  If you have questions about a certain term/plant/essential oil, you can do your research and/or contact me.

Cold medicine: I felt cold symptoms coming on and started taking a mild combo of essential oils; it seems that I kept the bug at bay and killed it; I didn’t get sick.  I haven’t yet had to pull out the strong ones (oregano, clove etc), just a bit of cinnamon.

  • Infusion of wild ginger, tusselage, thé du Labrador, ortie, eglantier, sureau, in cinnamon water or even just water (50ml)
  • Honey (30ml)
  • Essential oils of best quality (1tsp or 25 drops): 15 g citron, 5g tea tree, 3g peppermint, 2g cannelle vraie

This is taken like cough syrup, a teaspoon 3x a day or when needed.

You can make a diluted version and vaporize (spray to the back of the throat) more often.

I also made a more concentrated version with only the oils diluted in olive oil (20% or 3 drops in 1/2tsp), and this can be taken as medicine (1/2tsp,  3x day with meals).  This same mixture can be applied onto neutral orme(elm) tablets (1-2 drops per pastille) and taken that way instead, convenient on the road/not at home say.

On the side, it is optimal to eat lots of garlic and onions (I prefer this to rubbing my feet and thorax with garlic and onion juice or sticking garlic cloves into orifices, although this is said to be quite effective)..


I burned myself badly in the kitchen.. Yes, even after close to 20yrs as a professional cook, it still happens regularly.  So, I dunked my hand in ice cold water (as usual), then plunged in a cider vinegar bath a few times before bandaging..  It seems that the cider vinegar worked miracles -  no bubbles, no scar, pretty cool.  Apparently dipping in egg works well too, which is convenient in the case of a digit, not so much for a whole hand – I wasn’t going to crack open a dozen eggs.  Honey is supposed to help heal too.


Last week, a waitress cut herself wiping glasses.  We disinfected with cider vinegar (ideally diluted with some distilled water); to stop bleeding, we sprinkled the cut with black pepper or even better cayenne.  In season (soon!), smashed up plantain would have been a great help.  I made her a cream to help healing/diminish scarring with sauge, lavender aspic, bois de rose, geranium in a mix of calendula oil and argan/jojoba (5%).

Poison Ivy/bug bites/damaged hands/athlete’s foot:

I sent my dishwasher/commis out to pick some flowers and garlic, he came back with poison ivy.  In fact, we didn’t know until days later when he had welts all over his body, obviously having spread it by scratching.  François went out to pick the neighbouring plant that is a natural antidote (impatiente du cap), which you chop into a paste (or Robot coup is best) and spread all over.  I also made him a mix of diluted cider vinegar with Lavender and tea tree.  This is a mix I now keep in the kitchen for all burns, wounds – it’s a natural antiseptic, calming agent and proponent for healing. The same mix is good to clean dirty, damaged hands after a day of picking, getting scratched and cut and bitten while covered in dirt .  BTW Also perfect for athlete’s foot (on a daily basis), or simply to add to a foot bath or to apply to feet for refreshment or against stinky feet..

My boosters - Tonics for all round better function

No need for vitamins and mineral supplements with these, I figure..

I have made two tisane potions, one for day and one for night.  Concentrates that I dilute with water to drink – typically cold during the day and hot at night.  Bring water to a boil, turn off, throw in fresh and/or dried greens and herbs.  Let steep an hour or two, even overnight; strain and jar.  In the day potion, there is  stinging nettle, achilee millefeuille, peppermint, elderflower, wild ginger, lovage, thyme, black pepper, juniper, fennel, coriander, basil and more.. I kept the night mix simpler and free of stimulants: heavy on Labrador tea and camomile, with some wintergreen, wild rose, and of course stinging nettle..

I can’t say how much they might help anyone, but I made them taste good, with a pinch of this and that like when cooking.  The idea is less formally ‘nutraceutical’ but just a pleasant drink to replace juice, pop or wine that happens to be ultra healthy. Based on what I have learned, they are packed with nutrients and compounds that help all round digestive and immune function, stress and mood too, in my day blend especially. 

All fine and well, but I still have to get used to drinking tisane outside sitting down for ‘tea’, I mean at any time of day, naturally craving and reaching for it before any of my other customary liquids.  As the weather heats up, I do like a good homemade unsweetened ice tea, so I’ll be ready.

A few of my favourite concoctions that I truly love, perhaps even increasingly addicted to..  That have sold me on Essential oils ie. Aromatherapy.

My sleep aid: 

A straight up mix of essential oils: true lavender mostly, some orange, ylang ylang, a few drops of eucalyptus citroné and geranium. 

This provides an instant light buzz and calming numbing sensation..  I hear this might knock some people out but I don’t know, nothing knocks me out.. It does however soothe me, quieting much of the action in my head, making me more likely to fall asleep sooner.  It works better than anything else I’ve tried and I love the way it smells/feels.

My mouthwash/anti-bacterial mouth spray:

Peppermint (35), Lemon (25), Eucalyptus radié (20), Pamplemousse (15), Thyme (10), Tea tree (10) diluted in water or water with an ounce of alcohol to make 500ml or 5%.  I use it as mouthwash before brushing my teeth and like to carry around a spray bottle for times I can't brush or want to freshen my breath.  I just love this!

My muscle massage oil:

Basil (30), Eucalytus citroné (20), Wintergreen (20), Lavender(20), peppermint (10); diluted in vegetable oil of choice (at first I used olive because that is what I had, but now I like to play with jojoba, almond and argan oils in the mix); 3-5% depending on how often you use it/localised or over a large area of skin, say 5 drops per 15-30ml of oil is a safe guide.  I find it really helps with muscle pain.

My face cream:

Bois de rose(5), Geranium(3), True Lavender(2), Sauge(1), Ylang Ylang (1) in a little argan oil which I blend into a neutral jojoba based lotion that I buy at Noblessence on Laurier: 12 drops per 30ml (4%, but 2% is more common)  I truly adore this and it makes my skin feel great.

My bug stuff:  A starter cocktail, to be adjusted over the season; I’m ready to make it as varied and strong as I have to..  I started at 5%, and quickly went to 10%.  This new dose seems to work; the buggers still swarm, but stop and leave.  It seems to last for at least an hour or two, maybe not quite as long as a deet based cream, but not bad.  Now, I’m playing with proportions – more or less mint or eucalytus/piney scents..

Eucalytus citroné (30), Lavande(20), Menthe poivré, Menthe verte (20), Pin sylvestre, Camphre, Cedre, Sauge (30)

Digestion – I don’t have digestive issues (probably because I eat lots of fruit and veg and next to no processed/refined/industrial food), but many people I know do, so this interests me..

An essential oil rub can help, but an internal treatment for a couple of weeks might be in order for a chronic problem.  Huile de ricin (Castor oil) is supposed to work miracles here both externally and internally (in certain cases); I took a class on it but haven’t experimented..  With the essential oils though, yes..

External:30 basilic, 20 menthe poivrée, 20 Lavande vraie, 20 citron, 10 Eucalytus citroné

Diluted in hazelnut oil or vegetable oil (10% or 5 drops per 10ml) Others essential oils that are good here but not in my recipe only because I had to make a choice, or I don’t have them or they are too expensive/hard to find:  Camomille, Orange, Bois de rose, Gingembre, Pin maritime, Fenouil, marjolaine, romarin, noyeaux d’apricot..

Internal: 40 basilic,  30 Citron,  30 Menthe poivrée  (Bay or thyme could be added, but only for a short term treatment (10 days)).

Diet is obviously key here, diminishing meat and things that are hard to digest or that cause acidity, monitoring what causes problems for the person in particular with a food diary.  One thing is for sure: diminish sugar.

For an adult, a cleanse might be in order:  citron, basiilic, carotte sauvage and either bay/thyme/canella or tea tree (I like the last two, milder); 20% or 3 drops diluted in 1/2tsp olive oil 3Xday for 2-3weeks.  All while eating well etc..


Again, no personal experience, but I have many loved ones with some kind of exema. From knowing them and from my classes, I understand that there are many different kinds and that everyone is different.. Every specialist has his/her opinions.  But no matter who the specialist or what the ‘xxx..apy’ , they all agree that exema is complex – often related to diet, liver and intestine function, and very frequently tied to emotional issues and stress..  So there is a primary need to treat at the source; balms for the skin remain secondary.  Sometimes, there is a Mg/Zn deficiency or other.  Greens are beneficial and sugar is detrimental always.  Caffeine and alcohol are problematic, as are chocolate and spice.. to what degree depends on the person.  Gluten and dairy for many too. 

Decreasing the acidity diet wise appears to be beneficial (often candida goes along with it), but what causes acidity is counterintuitive (lemon is good, meat is bad).

One thing that stands out to me above all:  The best thing my sister (who has had bad excema all her life) ever did was reduce her workload & stress, ditch the rat-race ideology of working and making money above all, add fun hobbies and pay attention to her diet (ie. improve quality of life).  Good for her.  I made a salve in case she wants it some day and my mom is presently trying it out.  I can’t/won’t say it will work miracles for them, but so far, my mom says it helps..

In 15ml huile argan/soucis/jojoba: 2g menthe verte, 2g cedre, 2g lavande aspic, 1g ylang ylang, 1g geranium  (would have loved to add camomile but it is soo expensive; but you can always use a compress of strong camomile water or tea intermittently..)

Camomille water is also a terrific cleanser/toner for skin.  I was never convinced all the rigamoroll the girly magazines and esteticians recommend was necessary wrt to skincare, but if I think to apply a toner before moisturizing, this is it.

Funny thing with essential oils, they seem so strong scented at first, but the more you become accustomed to them, the less that is true.. They tend to grow on you, and even take hold as they become an integral part of daily routine/life.. For instance, initially I found the smell of Tea tree unbearably aggressive and medicinal, but now I don’t mind it, perhaps even like it – because I now am used to it, have seen it work, believe in it too??   Same with Ylang Ylang – I was never into anything reminiscent of patchouli, but now I love both, probably because I associate them with relaxation or soft skin.  Natural aphrodisiacs, maybe there’s something else going on there, who knows?  Nor did I think that I was particularly fond of floral notes outside of nature, in cosmetics for instance.. But I guess I am when they are natural as in the form of essential oils. I really no longer have any tolerance for synthetic aromas and I can always pick them out..

Another funny thing about essential oils/aromatherapy is that most people see it as hokey pokey stuff and benign, like I used to and still think many natural remedies are (of the cost effective tablet/tisane variety available at the health food store or pharmacy)..  But quality essential oils are concentrates of plants that are high in medicinal compounds – so a football field of a plant distilled into a little jar with all its active molecules, the same molecules that the pharmaceutical companies try to copy/compose with.  It’s equivalent medicine, but more natural with less side effects if properly used, and just as toxic if not.  Which is why they are not recommended for use with pregnant women and young children for the most part.  The English don’t use them internally while the French do, ha (but you need a prescription; while here you don’t despite all the crap out there)..  I suspect that both terms (be it essential oils or aromatherapy) do nothing to help them in being taken seriously. 

Meanwhile, everyday I hear from people close to me (or with a few degrees of separation) about their various maladies and malaises..  Collegues, their spouses and kids with recurring infections; our parents and their friends; in some instances, severe cases of mysterious symptoms that baffle the doctors.  Mothers with kids who are always sick, or with allergies, whatever.. Altogether, all kinds of people not finding answers in the conventional medical system.  And then I see the courageous fighters in my classes who have taken things into their own hands, caring for their families with their plants and natural remedies without much need for doctors. 

I don’t know enough yet to be coaching people, but I see all the possibilities and feel frustrated in face of all the lost souls looking for answers and relief.  Maybe one day, I will be able to help.  But one thing is for sure, if it were me who was really sick, I would do everything in my own power outside and/or alongside the traditional treatments, even if it meant clay and castor oil or names of treatments that sounding like aromatherapy.

I think any remedy for anything should start by eating well and spending time in nature..  That, I know about for sure.  The rest is bonus, a world to explore - but it will come, I’ will be working on it.

Posted on Thursday, May 31, 2012 at 12:20AM by Registered CommenterNancy Hinton | Comments1 Comment

Reader Comments (1)

Hi, I came across your website looking up wild Quebec edibles. I am enjoying your blog immensely! Thank you for writing. I think I bought mushrooms at your stand at Jean-Talon last year :)

For eczema, I am concerned about how much cigarette smoking there is in Quebec. I moved to Montreal in 2010 and have had allergy-type issues from second-hand smoke, including a stubborn and extensive skin rash that started after moving into an apartment next to chain smokers. I make my own cream to deal with the issue, too (personally, I do not use any EOs--simple is better--even olive oil by itself is great).
May 30, 2013 | Unregistered Commenteritchy and hungry

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