Massachusetts Daily Collegian

Herb festival sprouts in Student Union

By Rebecca Humphrey

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Juliette Sandleitner/Collegian

The scent of fresh herbs filled the doorway of the Student Union yesterday during Herb Fest 2013 on the University of Massachusetts. From cookies and cakes to lip balm and hand salve, Herb Fest showed off a wide variety of final projects made from herbs by 60 students in Professor Lyle Craker’s class, “Herbs, Spices and Medicinal Plants.”

The students in the class started their morning off at 9:30 a.m. presenting to young children from local schools. At 11:30 a.m. the festival was opened to the general public. Those who attended learned how to use many different types of herbs, tried free samples and could purchase plants.

“I really liked the fact sheets with all the herbs because I have seen some of them before but I didn’t know the extent of what they could all do,” said sophomore exchange student Margaret Nakayama.

One student in Craker’s class, plant soils and insect sciences major Hannah Petersen, revealed that even lions and tigers can be affected by catnip. For her final project she made her own cat nip from the herb Nepeta cataria.

“It has a euphoric effect for them, there is a chemical in it called nepetalactone and it causes them to basically go loopy and act like a kitten,” said Petersen. She also said that people can use catnip as an herbal remedy for headaches, nausea, insomnia, anxiety or upset stomachs by simply crushing it up, putting it in a bag and making it into a tea. It can even be incorporated into baked goods like cookies.

Many attendees were able to try dozens of delicious herbal treats like pineapple candies, lemongrass bread and lavender cake.

English major Hali Snow handed out lavender cookies as part of her display that focused on all things lavender.

“I came up with the idea when it was midterm season and I was super stressed out with everything going on and I just needed something calming and lavender is like known as the calming herb,” she said.

Nowadays, you can purchase calming herbs like valerian or chamomile in capsule form from pharmacies.

“Having Herb Fest shows us how beneficial simple things that are constantly around us are,” said Snow. “It just saves money knowing how to use herbs and how to make things from them.”

Throughout the semester, students in the class learned different uses for herbs including how to make mustard, rosemary vinegar, essential oils, tea and lip balm.

“These are crafts that they can make,” said Craker. “You don’t need to go out and spend money to give your grandmother or mother or aunt a gift. It is so easy to make herbal vinegar and it is something you made so it means more.”

For her final project, psychology major Brittany Lewis created an aromatherapy lip balm. She made multiple kinds that each had a different relaxing smell to target certain ailments like headaches or fatigue.

This close to finals, relaxation feels like it is far away for many students. Senior journalism major Diana Johnson sees Herb Fest as relaxing in more than one way.

“Everyone is talking about how their herb or spice relaxes people like lavender relaxes people, tea relaxes people, but I think actually coming and just walking through here and getting away from the stress of this time of the semester is relaxing in itself,” said Johnson. “It is a fun way to end the semester with this project.”

Rebecca Humphrey can be reached at [email protected]

 

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