Wise Woman Herbal Ezine

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  • Tuesday, July 16, 2013 4:17 PM | Anonymous
    It’s time to delight in the mushrooms and the ferns of the Catskill Mountains. Everywhere we look mushroom caps are pushing up and unfurling. The fern fronds fill every bit of open space and look as though you could float away on them like a magic carpet.

    The Green Witch Intensive was especially delightful this year thanks in part to the gracious of Gretchen Gould, who invited us all to come up to her land: Herb Hill. We harvested wild thyme and Oswego tea, wet our feet in Thirteen Mile Creek, make yarrow tincture and valerian flower oil, absorbed lots of knowledge and stories from Gretchen, ate wild raspberries, and got lost in Tansy City.

    And that was just the beginning. There was a magical moon lodge with the spiral of women, from Maidens through Mothers and into Crones, each sharing her story, her wisdom. And walks with the goats in the forest, to the river, to the meadow, to the secret places with the special plants. Our high magic ritual initiation of new Green Witches up on the mesa, guided and guarded by the Ancient Ones. And the glorious Goddess Pageant, and lots of great food.

    And did I mention that we talked about lots and lots of plants and how to harvest them and prepare them and use them? We did! We harvested wild greens for salads, we made nettle soup with fresh nettle we harvested on the spot (ouch!), we tasted and discussed and used motherwort tincture and yarrow tincture and herbal vinegars and herbal pestos and herbal oils and salves, we ate wild snacks that we picked as we walked, and we sang and sang and sang.

    Of course we drank nourishing herbal infusion every day, all day long. Water is available, but I don’t “serve” it at the Wise Woman Center, preferring that everyone drink nourishing herbal infusion instead: I’s better than water – in every way.

    I am excited and so looking forward to the Montana Herb Gathering. It will take three airplane rides to get me there (and another three to get me home), but well worth it. I hope to get a few photos to share with you in the ezine. Perhaps on the horseback ride I have planned.

    I wish abundance for you. An abundance of tomatoes, zucchini, an abundance of sweet corn, and cucumbers, and beans, and even an abundance of weeds. May you be rich in lamb’s quarter, amaranth, and purslane.

    And may you enjoy the healing, nourishing power of wild green blessings.


  • Tuesday, July 09, 2013 1:03 PM | Anonymous
    Fresh Hypericum Tincture

    On the sunniest day of the summer, look in fields and along roadsides for the yellow flowers of Hypericum and get ready to make two of the Great Remedies. Take both 100 proof vodka and pure olive oil with you when you go out to stalk St. John’s/St. Joan’s wort, bottles of various sizes, and a pair of sharp scissors.

    Depending on the abundance or scarcity of flowers, I harvest anything from just the blossoms to the top third of the Hypericum plant. So long as the day is sunny and the plants dry the tincture will be active and medicinal even if it contains a fair amount of stalk and leaves. I also make a quart of this tincture as I use it frequently, in dropperful doses.

    This has been a lush year for St. J’s, so the tincture was made using just flowers.
    If you are using tops rather than just flowers, chop as needed. I often harvest Hypericum flowers right into my jar and fill it with vodka or oil while still afield, insuring optimum freshness and maximum fairy blessings.

    Cover tightly. Label. I do not put my oil in the sun, but some people swear by it. Try one each way and see what you think. Your St. J’s tincture and your St. J’s oil will be ready to use in six weeks.

  • Tuesday, July 09, 2013 11:57 AM | Anonymous

    Humid green greetings from the Catskill Mountains of New York State. Summer 2013 continues to be exceptionally lush, with warm nights and daily thunderstorms. Everything is growing at such a rapid pace it is hard to keep up with the harvesting.

    This week we focused on picking linden blossoms. Their period of bloom is not too long, and with so much rain, it becomes a real race to get as much as we can when the sun shines. We only pick linden when all the rain and dew has dried off, usually early afternoon. By then the smell is so intoxicating that we can hardly wait to get to our baskets and ladders and get our hands on the linden.

    Then we go out to the field to continue our red clover harvest. Clover blossoms tend to absorb and hold onto moisture, so it is especially important to be sure they are not damp when you harvest them.

    We are also harvesting mullein flowers for Ear Oil, and whole flowering stalks – with their leaves – to dry for making Mullein Milk this winter. A friend made some mullein tincture from the fresh leaves a few years ago, and I have been enjoying it tremendously. Perhaps I’ll make some myself this week.

    There is still comfrey to harvest and hang to dry. And it is time to take down the nettle that has been hanging. Time to fold it away in brown paper bags, well labeled, for winter use.

    The drying shed is beautiful with the red bee balm drying for winter use.

    And there are a host of tinctures and vinegars to make: yarrow, motherwort, Hypericum, self-heal, creeping jenny, and elder, to name but a few that are clamoring for our attention.

    If you want to jump in with both feet, both hands, and your whole heart, do join us for the Green Goddess Apprentice Week. I am still looking for a few good green women to attend this year; several work-exchange positions are open.

    Green blessings are everywhere.


    Fresh Hypericum Tincture

  • Tuesday, July 02, 2013 9:04 AM | Anonymous
    Jewelweed broth
    Not only is this a tasty cold soup for summertime, it is a superior remedy for poison ivy rash.
    Sipping 2-4 cups of jewelweed broth, hot or cold, will quell both skin and joint inflammation.

    Harvest jewelweed (Impatiens pallida or canadensis) by pulling every 4th or 5th plant up by the roots. We are using the entire plant. The redder the root, the more effective this remedy.
    At home, rinse your jewelweed and place it, roots and all, in a pan, pressing it down very well.

    Add just enough cold water to barely cover the jewelweed and bring to a boil.
    Simmer, covered, until the water is orange.
    Cool, then refrigerate or pour into ice cube trays and freeze.

  • Tuesday, July 02, 2013 8:44 AM | Anonymous
    Greenest Greeting to You All

    Watch those days getting shorter, even as they heat up. Summer time is here!
    And with it lots of traveling and teaching for me.

    I am just back from the 11th International Herbal Symposium. A fantastic event that reminds us that American herbalists carry the heart of herbalism, and that the arc of herbalism definitely extends from naked people rolling (and bathing) in the herbs to white-coated lab technicians isolating active ingredients. 

    Perhaps the most important thing I learned was from David Winston who says the combination of antibiotic and any berberine-containing herb can clear MRSA and other anti-biotic resistant infections. Thank you David!!!

    And I am on my way to the Montana Herbal Gathering; something I have had on my wish list for many years. So glad to be making that a reality.

    As this is a holiday week, I am taking a holiday from doing the ezine weekly. Look for my letters and recipes coming your way every week, and the regular ezine with photos every other week during July and August. Enjoy your holidays, vacations, and recreations.

    And remember, green blessings are everywhere.
  • Tuesday, June 25, 2013 11:20 AM | Anonymous
    Pucker Up Salad  
    Serves 4

        Collect 25-30 woodbine leaves; separate leaflets and tear in half.
        Collect ¼-½ cup of sheep sorrel/whalewort.
        Collect oxalis as available.
        Collect 6-10 curly dock leaves; cut finely.
        Collect 1 cup chickweed tender tips.
        Toss all greens together.
        Garnish with rose petals or nasturtiums.

        Serve with tamari, herbal vinegars,* extra virgin olive oil, gomasio, and a drizzle of maple syrup.

        * Burdock root vinegar and yellow dock seed vinegar are especially good choices.
  • Tuesday, June 25, 2013 11:08 AM | Anonymous
    Pucker Up for Sour Plants
    The sour taste is ideal for summer. Like lemons, plants with sour tastes help us stay cool in the hot days. Lemony-tasting plants like lemon balm and lemon verbena are not what I mean though. I am talking about plants that are a sour as lemons, those that make you pucker up. Here are my favorites. (Note how many of them have “sorrel” in their names.)

    Wood sorrel (Oxalis stricta)

    With its leaves in threes, oxalis is often mistaken for a clover, even to the point of being called “sour clover.” But clover leaves are oval, and oxalis leaves are heart-shaped. And, of course, no clover is sour. This one is really tart. You will get a good pucker from it. My granddaughter has picked and eaten this plant with relish since she learned to identify it around age 2. The perky yellow flowers help the eye pick it out of the surrounding mass of greenery. Look for wood sorrel in the garden, not the woods. Though there are varieties that do inhabit the woods, they are not common on the east coast. All varieties of oxalis are edible, even the cultivated ones. Enjoy this great sour taste in your salad today!

    Sheep sorrel (Rumex acetosella)
    This is another small plant with a large taste. It is perhaps the sourest of all, definitely worthy of a pucker up. The tiny red flowers are most visible at a distance, rather than up close, as this sorrel grows in patches along roadsides and in “waste” places. A large patch keeps my iris bed company, preventing other, larger, weeds from colonizing the bed. This sorrel does goes in the woods, in bare, open places. It is a favorite of mine both as a snack while I am out in the forest with the goats, and as a delicious addition to summer salads. Try some soon.

    sheep sorrel

    sheep sorrel  in flower

    Garden sorrel (Rumex acetosa)
    Notice that the botanical name of this plant is nearly the same as the previous sorrel. That’s because they are sisters. The ending “ella” means “little,” so we know that sheep sorrel is a little variety of garden sorrel. I don’t know which came first, the wild one or the cultivated one. In fact, I couldn’t swear that garden sorrel is not developed from a yellow dock. At any rate, this is the cultivated member of the Rumex genus. And it has been bred and chosen for that yummy sour taste. If you don’t have one in your garden, Johnny’s Selected Seeds in Vermont and Richter’s in Ontario can help you.

    Curly dock, Yellow dock (Rumex crispus)
    There are many dock with yellow roots that are used medicinally, and they are all known as yellow dock. But don’t try eating the leaves of most of them. Only the curly dock provides edible leaves. The other docks are too bitter. If garden sorrel was jumped up from a yellow dock, then this is the most likely parent. With just a little tweaking, the sour taste in these leaves could be selected for and grown into a great pucker up plant. The youngest leaves of the curly dock are the best, and the most sour. Try them in my Pucker Up Salad, or use them to make the classic soup Shav.

    Enjoy some of these plants in your Pucker Up Salad!
  • Tuesday, June 25, 2013 11:06 AM | Anonymous
    Glorious Green Greetings to All

    The apprentices and I have harvested the last of the nettles to dry. What we haven’t gotten to will go to seed, and we will harvest those seeds this autumn. Except for those we will continue to harvest throughout the summer to make nettle rot fertilizer to feed the garden plants.

    Now that nettle gathering is complete, we can devote ourselves more herbs ready to harvest: prickly flowering comfrey stalks and picky red clover blossoms. The students at the Great Remedies class last weekend helped us pick a big basket full of perfect red clover blossoms. Many hands make the work go quickly. Thank you!

    A wild wind blew through last week and shook all the mulberries from the mulberry trees. The apprentices picked them up and started a mulberry wine. Then we went out and picked elder blossoms so we could make elder flower champagne and elder flower tincture.

    Speaking of which, both elder and mullein told me they are irked at me for not including them in the Great Remedies class. (We talked about nettle, red clover, comfrey, linden, oatstraw, plantain, yarrow, and motherwort.)

    “But the students can only learn so much in one day,” I protested. “After we cut young nettle from the soup patch, harvested shiitake (thanks Sean) from the shiitake logs, added both to boiling water, and dropped in some dried astragalus root to make ourselves a delicious soup. And after we harvested and made a salad of sheep sorrel, wood sorrel, yellow dock leaves, lamb’s quarter, creeping jenny, self-heal, five-finger ivy, mallow leaves, wild oregano, plantain, and clover blossoms.  And after we harvested nettle and hung it to dry; and harvested comfrey and hung it to dry. And harvested yarrow flowers and made a tincture. And then harvested flowering motherwort and made a tincture.  Well, I had intended to include you both, but there just wasn’t enough time.” (They are still annoyed. Burdock and yellow dock are content to wait until autumn, when they star in the Digging Roots class late this fall.)

    This week I bring you the sour herbs of summer. Get ready to make friends with some tarts in the true sense of the word

    Green blessings
  • Tuesday, June 18, 2013 10:38 AM | Anonymous
    Fresh flowering herb tincture
    Dose of motherwort is 5-25 drops, as often as needed.
    Dose of mullein is 10-40 drops, 1-4 times a day.
    Dose of St. J’s is 1-20 dropperfuls a day.

    • Harvest the flowering tops of motherwort, mullein, or St. J’s at noon or later on a bright, sunny day when there has not been rain for at least 24 hours.
    • Chop the stalks, leaves, flowers, flower buds, and developing seeds of the one plant you have chosen into pieces no longer than an inch and a half.
    • Fill your jar right up to the top with the fresh, chopped herb.
    • Then fill the jar to the top with 100 proof vodka. (No, 80 proof will not work.)
    Cap tightly. Label, including the botanical name of the plant and the date.
    Keep in a cool, dark place.
    Your tincture is ready to use after six weeks but may be left for years without harm.
  • Tuesday, June 18, 2013 10:16 AM | Anonymous
    Here are three more Great Remedies for you, all used primarily internally, as opposed to last week’s trio, which are mostly used externally. Of those, yarrow and plantain may also be made into a fresh herb tincture; the yarrow while flowering, the plantain at any time. I do not use comfrey tincture.

    St. J’s, St. Joan’s wort, St. John’s wort (Hypericum perforatum)

    Oh flower of the sun, flower of the solstice, bless us, bliss us. Let us keep your summer magic for our winter use. Permit us to capture your light in oil. Allow us to bottle your inner glow. Grace us with your red-lipped smile in our tinctures. Allow us to capture your innermost power. Oh, flower of the sun, ease our muscle pain, help us stay strong and flexible. Oh flower of solstice, lift our mood and let us be your emissary of delight. Bless us, bliss us. Flower of the sun, flower of the fire, flower of St. Joan, protect us from burning, protect our skin against harm. Flower of the solstice protect us from viral infections, protect us from invisible harms. Flower of the sun, flower of the solstice, bless us, bliss us. Smile on us.

    Motherwort (Leonurus cardiaca)
    Thanks to Justine Smythe for this exquisite photo of the flowers of motherwort, one of my favorite remedies for both men and women. Motherwort flowering top tincture not only strengthens the muscles of the heart and the uterus, it establishes a regular rhythm in both organs. Motherwort is nothing less than amazing in its ability to calm those who are anxious. It eases menstrual cramps, assists at birth, calms a rapid heartbeat, helps smooth the rough parts of our menopausal journey, and is said to be “the herb of longevity” in Japan. The tea is way too bitter for pleasant consumption; so is the tincture made from dried motherwort. Stick to the fresh plant tincture; it tastes like (cheap) chocolate; yummy.

    Mullein (Verbascum thapsus)
    This common roadside weed is known as the “lungs of the earth.” It nourishes and restores the lungs from the bronchioli to the trachea. I harvest mullein to dry for infusion by cutting the flowering stalk just before the flowers open. I hang each stalk individually and store, when dry, in brown paper bags. Before using it, I use heavy garden pruning shears to cut the mullein stalk and leaves into 1-2 inch pieces. To make Lung Healing Mullein Milk: first making a mullein infusion by steeping one ounce of dried mullein in a quart of boiling water for at least four hours. The resulting dark brown brew is strained through a cloth to remove the ultra-fine hairs, them mixed half and half with whole milk, heated to piping hot, sweetened with a little honey. This may be drunk freely by those seeking to stop smoking, those who have stopped smoking, anyone with a chronic or acute cough, those with asthma and allergies affecting breathing, and anyone who has previously had pneumonia.  

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