Local herbalist Helton has busy schedule

TUSTIN — Did you know there is an Herb of the Year?

Since 1995, the International Herb Association has been showcasing one herb a year and educating the public about its unique uses and properties. Herbs chosen in the past include rosemary, mint, scented geranium and lavender.

Taking the spotlight in 2011 is a selection not quite so pleasing or fragrant. This year the honor goes to horseradish, a very unlikely candidate that most of us might not even consider an herb.

But it is indeed an herb, and Della Helton can tell you all about it.

She has horseradish, along with a wide array of other herbs, growing everywhere you look—in her gardens and in the many large and small pots around her home, a rustic log cabin on ten acres near Tustin.

In 1989, Helton moved to Tustin from Fenton where she took a course on herbs and natural cosmetics. “That class changed my life,” she said.

“I was fascinated to learn that with one little plant I could make so many things out of it. For example, rosemary. I could make tea, use it in cooking and in soups. And if that’s not enough, it’s also good for the memory. It has health benefits too.”

She continued to explore her interests and developed a passion for herbs and all things natural. Joining with fellow enthusiasts, she founded the Genesee County Herb Society, and is still a member. She is also a founding member of the Wexford County Herb Society which meets in Cadillac once a month.

Today she is an accomplished herbalist and has a busy calendar of appearances, using her expertise in a variety of informative and entertaining programs throughout the Tustin area.

Herbal tea parties

One of Helton’s favorite ways to share her knowledge is by holding tea parties. Clubs, churches, organizations, businesses and individuals engage her to come to their meetings or special events and organize a tea party.

She provides information on menu choices, how to decorate the tables, what types of teapots, teacups and linens to use and other tips on creating a tea party ambience.

At least three types of herbal teas are featured and she supervises the brewing process. Her favorites are mint, rosemary, rose hips and lemon balm.

As guests sip tea and enjoy refreshments, Helton presents an overview of the main types of herbal teas and their properties and explains how to brew a proper pot of tea.

Helton is also a student of tea etiquette and traditions and talks about English teatime, its rituals and customs, and explains the difference between high tea and afternoon tea.

All about herbs

There is a long history of herbs used for healing purposes and more and more conditions and ailments are being treated with them today.

Many clubs and groups invite Helton to give presentations on herbs and their health benefits.

Displaying live herb plants, she talks about how they are grown, how to dry the leaves, how to make herbal teas and how to incorporate them into a personal health regime.

She adapts the talks to the interests of the group and will customizes the content to relate to a suggested theme or topic.

Natural soaps and potpourri

Helton handcrafts her own soaps using only natural ingredients—olive oil, essential oils extracted from plants and the wide variety of herbs she grows.

The fragrant soaps are softer and kinder to the skin, and each is distinctive in its own way. Lavender is calming, mint is a pick-me-up, lemon is antiseptic and a mix of rosemary and bergamot is energizing.

The soft scent of natural potpourri is a welcome touch for any room in the house. Helton mixes potpourri from dried flowers, roots, foliage and essential oils creating fragrances such as apple, citrus, floral, jasmine, lavender, cinnamon and vanilla.

The potpourri can be used loose in a bowl or basket or in muslim or crocheted sachets.

Helton displays and sells her herbal teas, soaps, potpourri and vintage collectibles, including quilts, teapots, linens, teacups and dishes, at various fairs and festivals. She calls her collection “Scentimental Journey,” and it is a popular exhibit at many area events.

Della is available to speak to your group or to plan a tea party. For further information or to purchase herbal teas and soaps, call (231) 779-0275.