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From the garden to inside the home, herbs have been household essentials for hundreds of years.

In the "New Book of Herbs" by Jekka McVicar (DK Publishing), readers are treated to a complete handbook for home use. With a gardener's passion and a home cook's creative edge, McVicar provides a great teaching tool, no matter what the skill level.

She includes medicinal and relaxation uses for herbs, as well. But it is her guidance on the upkeep of the home that will delight environment-conscious homemakers.

Natural Furniture Polish

1-1/4 cups water

1 large handful fresh lemon balm

1-1/4 cups turpentine

2 oz. beeswax

1/2 cup soap flakes

Tins with tight-fitting lids

Make an herb infusion by placing the lemon balm leaves and stalks into a bowl. Boil the water and pour over the leaves.

Slowly and carefully melt beeswax with turpentine in a bowl positioned over a sauce pan of simmering water. The mixture has a low flash (ignition) point, so the pan must be tended and the process done slowly.

Strain the infusion and heat gently in another sauce pan.

Cool the infusion and the beeswax mixture; then combine to make a thick cream. Pour into tins and seal lids.

To apply, use a soft cloth. Use on wood, metal or painted surfaces. With a clean cloth, buff the surface to shine.

Upholstery Shampoo

1 tbsp. dried or fresh root of soapwort or 2 handfuls of fresh stems

1 quart water

Wash fresh soapwort thoroughly in water. There is no need to peel. If using dried soapwort, soak overnight.

Put prepared soapwort and 1 quart water in a sauce pan. Bring to a boil, cover, and let simmer 20 minutes. Let stand until cool.

Strain liquid into a bottle and store in the refrigerator.

To use, dampen a sponge with the solution and rub fabric lightly. Let dry before applying again.

Window Cleaner

1 handful lemon verbena leaves, fresh or dried

1 cup water

2 tbsp. white vinegar

3 to 4 drops liquid soap

Put lemon verbena in saucepan. Add water and bring to a boil. Once it reaches a rolling boil, lower heat to simmer. After 10 minutes, turn off heat and let mixture cool.

When liquid is cool, strain through a fine mesh sieve into a spray bottle. Add vinegar and liquid soap. Seal and shake well.

Use within three weeks on windows. Recycle old newspapers by using them as your window-cleaning cloths.

All-purpose Surface Cleaner

Handful of fresh sage

1-1/4 cups water

1 tbsp. baking powder

8 drops lemon juice

Put sage leaves and stems in a saucepan. Add the water, cover and bring to a boil. Once it reaches a rolling boil, lower heat and simmer 20 minutes. Remove from heat.

When liquid is cool, strain through a fine mesh sieve to remove any impurities.

Pour cooled liquid into a bottle, add baking soda and lemon juice. Put top on bottle and shake well.

Use to clean bathroom sinks and kitchen surfaces. Store in refrigerator for up to 1 week.

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