The Wondersmith
Rewarding curiosity and gifting magic all over the Pacific Northwest
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This blog is an exploration of daily magic, featuring wild plants, creative recipes, meaningful ceremonies, and writings about our shared humanity. 

Welcome to the Wondersmith's Writings! Here you can find magical recipes featuring foraged ingredients, musings on food and ceremony, and meaningful rituals to explore your own everyday magic. Don't forgot to subscribe if you'd like to get a notification anytime I post a bit more magic! And if you'd like to support my goal to spread magic far and wide, consider contributing to my patreon program!

Violet Leaf Naiad Lotion and A Review of The Backyard Herbal Apothecary

Quick note: this post contains affiliate links (marked with a *), which means I may earn a little extra commission at no cost to you. Read more about this on my disclosures page.

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I’m so excited to share with you all that my good friend Devon (of Nitty Gritty Life) has written her first book, and that it is awesome. The Backyard Herbal Apothecary* is quickly becoming my absolute favorite resource for plant identification and getting to know the plants around me much better.

There are a lot of various ways to approach learning about plants, from Western Herbalism’s structure based on temperaments, to researching Indigenous usage, to listening to folk medicine, to reading scientific studies. One thing I absolutely LOVE about this book is that Devon has managed to combine all of those differing influences into one easy to understand monograph for each plant she covers. You don’t need to be a professional botanist to understand the nature of each plant and what they do - plus, she gives at least one easy-to-follow recipe for every plant in the book! Together, these homemade herbal products would make a fantastically diverse home apothecary to help with everything from colds to bruises.

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Now, I have to admit that my love of this book might be a tiny bit biased, because I know what a fantastic human Devon is. She’s been known to send me homemade brews when I’m struggling to get nutrients, and is that person I can text on rough evenings when I need someone to be there for me. I love her balance of deeply kind and hilariously sassy; Devon herself is as adaptable as the plants she writes about, knowing when to be serious and when to make me laugh until I cry. All of that said, I would seriously love this book * even if it wasn’t written by one of my favorite humans. It’s that good.

If you’re a beginning herbalist or want to learn more about the power of the plants in your own yard or garden, this would be a fantastic place to start. She includes identification instructions, herbal energetics, therapeutic actions, parts used, and so much more. Each monograph includes photos to accompany the text, which is written in her easy-to-understand herbalist voice (almost like having a friendly neighbor over for the afternoon.) This book would also be a great accompaniment to my blog as well - learn about identification and usage of the plants I feature through Devon’s book as you follow along with my Wondersmith explorations!

I’m really looking forward to trying more of the recipes shared in this great book, but the monograph that immediately caught my attention was the one about violets. I decided to give her recipe for violet lymphatic lotion a try, then do my Wondersmith take on it to make my own blend inspired by hers, which I call “Wild Violet Naiad Lotion” (recipe and backstory below!)

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Wild Violet Naiad Lotion

Do you ever feel dry, crackly, tense, hot, parched, and frizzy? If so, the water medicine found so bountifully this time of year may just be what you need. Dryness can be a situational thing (as in cracked lips or a drought) , but it can also be a metaphorical thing (as in feeling tight and crackly and stuck.)  Our personalities and emotions are so physically tied to our bodies that sometimes the line between the two is blurred beyond our understanding. But that doesn’t really matter too much. What matters is giving parched minds and bodies what they are craving: wetness.

As the snow melts and the spring rain comes, the earth is bathed in moving water. Those rushing rivers and delicate trickles all move life around, depositing silt in new fertile riparian areas and nourishing the plants that spring up from the showers that cleanse the air as they fall. From lymph-relaxing cleavers to soothing marshmallow root to water itself (to drink or bathe in, or sometimes a brisk jump in very cold water that rewards the body with that buzzing feeling of being more alive than usual), all of that water magic gets things lubricated, loose, and moving. Spring cleaning doesn’t just apply to the home; it happens in the body as well. Just as the fluid sap of the trees wakes up and begins moving again, so do the fluid systems in our bodies wake up from winter’s slumber. Gentle spring herbs are known for supporting the body’s ability to wash out toxins and perform more smoothly in every way, a sort of gentle water cleanse of the body, like standing in a spring shower.

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Out of all the moistening and lubricating and water-loving plants of springtime, perhaps the one that holds my attention the most is the violet. Did you know that if you dry violet leaves and flowers and then steep some in warm water, the water will become slightly thicker and silky smooth? I picture that brew as liquid silk, and want to become completely immersed in it, inside and out. If I close my eyes and feel my hands in that soft and gentle water, I can almost imagine I’m a naiad, soaking in water as my life-blood and my home.

In ancient Greek mythology, Naiads were a type of nymph that made their homes in sources of fresh water - everything from springs and streams to fountains and wells. They were seen as water protectors, keeping the health of the water that was so essential to humans. Ritual sacrifices were made to them, and cleansing rituals took place in their magical waters.

I’ve always pictured naiads to be remarkably sensual. No, I’m not talking about the inescapable sexual charm of sirens, because sensuality is not always tied to sex. I picture Naiads as beings who took the time to smell the violets around their watery homes, to relish the feeling of water against their skin, to sleep under perfumed flowers growing on vines in the trees that provided them with shade. Naiads surely understood the importance of earthly pleasures and performed their calling as protectors of water with more passion because of their love for them.

Perhaps Naiads are real, and stay just beyond our understanding at the edges and in the depths of the waters we depend on. Perhaps they were once a part of this earth and are gone now. Or perhaps they were humankind’s reverence for nature, extrapolated into the personification of places and resources. If you view a stream as home to an otherworldly magical being, you are much less likely to cause it harm, wouldn’t you agree? If personifying nature means respecting it in a deeper way, I am all for the belief in naiads.

So take a page from the book of wonder and whip up some of this luscious lotion infused with water medicine. Delight in the process of making it, feeling that silky violet water and warm coconut smell of the oils melting. Then, give yourself the gift of sensuality by rubbing it onto your body in a way that feels moistening and nurturing, taking in the luxurious spring blossom scents it carries.

This recipe was adapted from my dear friend Devon’s violet lymphatic lotion in her new book, The Backyard Herbal Apothecary. In her wonderful monograph about violets, Devon talks about their profound effect on the lymphatic system, loosening tightened or blocked lymph nodes to encourage movement in the body that can help prevent health issues such as breast cancer.

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Wild Violet Naiad Lotion:

Ingredients:

2 Tbs. (6g) dried violet leaves and flowers, split

1/2 vanilla bean, split

8 oz water

2 Tbs. coconut oil

1 Tbs (15 g) cocoa butter

1 Tbs. (12 g) emulsifying wax pastilles

6 drops Jasmine essential oil

4 drops lavender essential oil

3 drops sweet orange essential oil

Directions:

  1. Chop the vanilla bean into small pieces. Put half of them into a heat-proof cup with half of the violet leaves and flowers. Heat the water until it’s just below boiling, then pour it over the mixture. Infuse for half an hour, then strain. (You’ll need 3-5 Tbs. for the recipe.)

  2. Melt the coconut oil and cocoa butter in a double boiler over low heat. Once they’re melted, add the other half vanilla bean and violet leaves and flowers. Let infuse over low heat for 20-30 minutes.

  3. Strain the oil mixture and add it back to the double boiler. Add the emulsifying wax and heat just until the wax is melted. Remove from heat and add the essential oils.

  4. The water infusion and the oil infusion should be within 10F of each other, so you may need to gently heat your strained water infusion a little bit.

  5. Using a handheld beater, blend the oil while slowly pouring in the reserved water infusion to emulsify into lotion. At first, the mixture will look separated and strange, but just keep beating and adding a little water at a time and before you know it, the mixture will become soft and white and creamy. Spoon into a 2oz container.

  6. Since this natural lotion recipe doesn’t contain any preservatives, it’s best to keep it stored in the fridge between uses and re-made every 2 weeks or so.

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*New to foraging and don’t know where to start? Check out this blog post on Foraging 101!

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