Holiday Herbs

I can hardly believe that Thanksgiving is just weeks away.  Here is an excerpt from Martha’s book, A Pocket Full of Posies on the focus of herbs during the holidays.  Enjoy!


Herbs come into focus during the holidays. Sage and thyme accompany the aroma of Thanksgiving turkey; cloves and ginger dominate pumpkin pie; cinnamon in mulled cider and apple pie; nutmeg and vanilla in eggnog; the importance of frankincense and myrrh predate their Christian significance as do the smell of pine, fir, and spruce; saffron, sandalwood, tangerine, lemon, orange, grapefruit—all deepen our experience of celebration surrounding the winter solstice.

The holidays are a great time to create herbal gifts that heal and delight. I love to spend time in my garden harvesting and in the kitchen concocting and I encourage my friends, and patients to do the same. Some gifts I have made in the past include: rose moisturizer, lavender sachets and soaps, cedar oil, holiday herbal potpourri, chamomile and rosemary shampoo, tea tree hair conditioner; bergamot, jasmine and violet tea, savory salt, licorice and lemon drops, basil pesto, and anise cookies.

In addition to herbs from the garden, I’ll harvest seeds and plants for gifts.  I am passionate about the California butterfly corridor and invite friends and patients to join the collective effort by ceasing the use of pesticides in their gardens and planting plants that support the butterfly lifecycle. Go to for more info and photos. Plant California pipevine, plantain, life everlasting, passion vine, and milkweed to encourage butterfly pupation and nectaring. Children love to receive flower and vegetable seed packets along with a promise to help them prepare the soil and plant the seeds in spring. As there is such a difference in flavor between commercial and homegrown herbal teas, mix fennel, chamomile flowers, and mint for a custom herbal tea blend. Freshly dried dill weed and seed, basil, and thyme smell incredibly inviting and make wonderful gifts. Adding a few rose petals, borage, or bergamot flowers to the mix is colorful as well as healthy.  Dried flowers and seed pods from various trees make thoughtful arrangements.  Some easy ones to start with include hydrangea flowers, watsonia seed stems, poppy heads, and cones from evergreen trees. Culinary herb wreaths are excellent gifts that are appreciated meal after meal.

From the kitchen comes the most delicious application of fresh herbs. Herb flavored unpasteurized vinegars using basil, tarragon, raspberries, or garlic presented in unusual bottles make attractive gifts. I love to make holiday treats such as poppy seed cake with pecans. There are two special Dutch holiday cookies I grew up with—marzipan made from almonds and spicklas made with nutmeg, cinnamon, cloves, and mace. For very special people on your gift list, splurge and make vanilla bean extract or use saffron in a holiday recipe or two.

Benedictine Healing Products makes over one hundred hand crafted herbal products for infants, children, adults, and pets. If you do not have time to make your own, try some of ours.

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