Wise Woman Herbal Ezine

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  • Thursday, April 18, 2013 5:38 PM | Anonymous

    New Greens Salad


    • One-third chickweed (Stellaria media), cut in one-inch pieces
    • One-third garlic mustard leaves (Alliaria officinalis), torn in half
    • One-sixth purple dead nettle flowers and leaves (Lamium purpurum)
    • One sixth wild chives or dandelion leaves

  • Thursday, April 18, 2013 5:28 PM | Anonymous
    Weed walk

    Here are three pretty, and possibly poisonous, wildflowers for you to enjoy. These plants are not for your salads, nor are they to pick for indoor beauty. Leave them alone. Admire them outside in their natural settings. If you do use them, please harvest only tiny amounts for medicine. The earth and the plants thank you.

    Coltsfoot (Tussilago farfara)   
    Here are the gleaming yellow flowers of coltsfoot, so named because it the shape of its leaf. Note the hairy, white scales on the flower stalk. Dandelion has yellow flowers just like coltsfoot does, but its flower stalk is smooth. Because the flower appears before the leaf (an adaptation that increases pollination chances for small plants of deciduous forests), coltsfoot is sometimes called “son before the father.” The leaves of coltsfoot have been smoked to counter asthma, but are not considered safe for internal use. I have eaten them, with no immediate consequences, but they do contain problematic PAs. Coltsfoot flowers may be preserved in honey and used to counter coughs.

    Bloodroot (Sanguinaria canadensis)
    As soon as I see the buds of the bloodroot I know that summer is nearly upon us. These charming wildflowers announce the presence of an unusual root. Just beneath the surface of the ground lies a finger-thick rhizome. Cut it and it appears to bleed red blood. Thus, the name. And thus, the belief, supported by science, that bloodroot will heal bleeding gums and counter gum disease. I feel protective of this little plant and only dig one rhizome per year, making just enough tincture (with 100 proof vodka) to put one drop a day on my toothbrush. Remember also, that plants with colored saps are usually poisonous. Large doses of bloodroot are more likely to cause harm than to help.

    Periwinkle (Vinca minor)
    Here’s another pretty, poisonous plant. “Poison” is often a matter of quantity; a large amount of something may be deadly, while a small amount of the same substance may be medicinal. I have, indeed, eaten the small amounts of the stunning blue-purple flowers of wild periwinkle, with no ill effects. I limit myself to no more than 2 per day, though, just to be on the safe side. Her sister, Madagascar periwinkle is poisonous enough to kill cancer. Vincristine is one drug made from periwinkle. Alas, it takes tons of the plant to make a single dose of the drug, so doing this at home is simply not feasible, practical, or safe.

  • Thursday, April 18, 2013 5:24 PM | Anonymous
    Green greetings to you all, friends, students, and mentor-ees.

    Once again, the little bulbs of Holland burst forth in color to enliven the last days of spring. It sure is nice to sit back and enjoy the work I put in months ago when I planted those bulbs.

    Something new is blooming everyday now. I have chosen some real wildflower beauties to share with you this week. But not to worry, not only are they beautiful (and beautifully dressed in becoming shades of white, yellow, and blue) they are medicinal too.

    It is almost time for my semi-annual workshop at Rowe Center in northwest Massachusetts.  This year it is the first weekend of May and we are gathering to celebrate the trees. Rowe Center is one of those special places where they get everything “right:” the food, the energy, the accommodations, the teaching spaces, the wonderful staff. I guarantee that our weekend together absorbing the medicine of the standing people will be relaxing, renewing, and, as always, filled with stories, songs, recipes, and the magic and mystery of the green nations. I hope you will join me.

    Speaking of workshops, I still have openings available in the Green Goddess Apprentice Week and the Green Witch Intensive this summer at the Wise Woman Center. These events always create a community of women focused on learning to love themselves and learning how to use simple herbal medicine, the Wise Woman Way.

    We’re coming to the end of our core curriculum on cedar. I trust you have found one or more ways to invite Grandmother Cedar into your life. Soon we will switch our focus to plantain, ever useful, ever peaceful plantain, the bandage plant. If you haven’t already, now is the time to choose a mentorship level so you can enjoying the special core curriculum, special teleseminars, videos, and more.

    Here is a recipe for new greens salad, made from plants you already know. Enjoy!

    Green blessings.
  • Thursday, April 11, 2013 5:11 PM | Anonymous
    Cedar Smudge
    Use it to move energy. Use it to change energy. Use it for protection. Use it for healing.
      Please be mindful when playing with fire; it is dangerous.

    A.    Dry small branches of cedar or juniper until crisp. Place in a heat-proof container and light. After a moment, blow out the flame. The dry needles should smolder and smoke. The smoke is the smudge. Whisk it through the air with a small broom or feathers.

    B.    Wrap small branches of cedar or juniper with thin string. (Red is traditional.) I wrap in a crisscrossing spiral up and then down the branches. Feel free to invent your own way of wrapping. Be sure to leave a loose end so you can tie the string. Allow to dry. Light. Use as a wand to cast smoke around windows and doors for protection, or to smudge participants in rituals. (Caution for sparks.)
  • Thursday, April 11, 2013 4:59 PM | Anonymous
    Weed Walk

    Chickweed (Stellaria media)
    Here is our old friend chickweed, already blooming. Gather her now. She is a tasty addition to salads and ever so much better than sprouts on sandwiches. Or you could put up some chickweed tincture in case you ever need to dissolve cysts or growths in the ovaries or breasts. Or you could make some chickweed oil; so soothing to tender skin. Or you could make chickweed pesto, but be warned: You could wind up with a chickweed pesto habit!

    Purple Dead Nettle (Lamiun purpureum)
    Here is the first mint to flower this year. It is a dead nettle, in the dead nettle genus. A rather confusing appellation, as this is clearly not a nettle. Ah, yes. Thus it is “dead” nettle, or “blind” nettle. This genus is the “typical” genus of the mint family and has given its name to the entire family: Lamiaceae. (This replaces the older name Labiatae, which that naughty boy Linnaeus gave to the family. “Labia” is “lips,” and the flowers in the mint family are lipped. It was a good name, but it had to be changed to follow the form. The form says the family name must be the same as the name of the typical genus with –aceae added to the end.)

    Here’s a close up of the flowers. This will help you recognize the shape and structure of mint flowers. Most herbals that mention dead nettle cite the white-flowered species, Lamiun album. I have no doubt that the purple-flowered one can be used in the same ways: As an astringent, expectorant, antispasmodic, and hemostatic tea that focuses its energies in the belly. It counters profuse menstruation, vaginal discharge, prostate swelling, diarrhea, and intestinal upsets. The tincture of the flowering plant has been used as an aid to sleep. Poultices of the boiled leaves can be used when dealing with gout, varicosities (including hemorrhoids), boils, and bed sores. And, of course, I add it to my spring salads. (Homeopaths use it against sinus congestion, bronchitis, and menstrual pain.)

    Cuckoo flower (Cardamine pratensis)
    What a cute name for this tiny little mustard. I always think: “Eat it,” but am foiled by its miniscule size. Mustard family plants germinate easily in cool soils and prefer to grow in the cooler weather of late spring and early fall. Wild mustards, like this cuckoo flower, ate popping up everywhere. See if you can find at least one where you live. All parts of most wild mustards are tasty and edible: flowers, seeds, leaves, even the roots, which have a horseradishy taste. If the snow has melted, scratch some dirt this week, no matter how cold it is, and plant some cultivated mustard-family plants like kale, collards, or broccoli. (If the snow melted long ago where you are, I hope you planted your kale way back then.) Green blessings are everywhere.

  • Thursday, April 11, 2013 4:56 PM | Anonymous
    Green greetings to friends old and new. Welcome!

    Spring is almost over. Planting begins in earnest. Baby birds are hatching. Frogs are boldly advertising for mates. The sun is warm and stays so long in the sky. And everywhere, every day, something new is springing up.

    I had a difficult time choosing just three flowering plants for our photo gallery this week. Each new habitat I visited had new delights to share with you. I finally chose plants growing close to houses; plants that all of you, no matter where you live, can find with little effort, right now, in late spring (for most of us), and even late fall (for those down under). Our three plants this week are: something old (our pal chickweed), something new (dead-nettle), and something borrowed (cuckoo flower). (The something blue is the clear blue sky smiling at you.)

    Behind my house is a large (over an acre) depression that floods in the spring. It is a vernal pond. The water stays during the cool spring months, then dries up as summer’s heat pours down. But the weeks of its existence, though few, are enough for the frogs and salamanders who depend on these vernal ponds for mating and breeding. It is a special, magical area. Not cuddly or cozy, but filled with the power and presence of trembling life. It reminds me that life makes the best possible use of every habitat, whether that place is to my liking or not.

    True, vernal ponds can also be breeding places for insects, including mosquitoes. In my experience, however, they dry up before most insects can make use of them. And I am certain that the insects that the amphibians eat later in the summer more than make up for the few extras that enjoy the vernal pond with us.

    Out you go! Into the garden. On a walk. Sitting in the sun. As my dear friend Eaglesong Evans Gardener says: “The best advice my mother ever gave me was ‘Go outside and play.’” Yeah! Go outside and play.

    Green blessings.
  • Thursday, April 04, 2013 4:21 PM | Anonymous
    Evergreen Oil
    There are so many uses for an antiseptic, antibacterial, anti-tumor oil.

    Collect needles and twigs of any aromatic evergreen: cedar, juniper, hemlock, spruce, pine. You will also need a bone dry jar, some olive oil, and a label or two.

    Fill the jar very full of evergreen needles and twigs. You may leave them whole or cut them. Make sure their uppermost tips are well below the top of the jar.

    Fill the jar to the top with pure olive oil (or other oil of your choice). It is best if there is a “head” of oil floating over the evergreen. Cap well.

    Label, including date, on front and top. Place jar in a bowl to catch overflow. Ready to use in six weeks.
  • Thursday, April 04, 2013 4:00 PM | Anonymous
    Weed Walk

    Goldthread (Coptis trifolia)
    Looking a little like a wayward, wet-footed, strawberry, the evergreen goldthread is a tiny medicinal plant of the Northeast woodlands. Also known as yellowroot (what else?!) or cankerroot (we will get to that), this coptis is named for its thread-like yellow root, which you can see in my photo. (I ate that entire plant, root and all, in thanks for its allowing me to pull it and photograph it for you.) The yellow coloration indicates the presence of berberine, an antibacterial substance that is especially effective against HPV and other venereal warts, also known as cankers. Goldthread root tea is generally used externally on mucus surfaces of the genital, mouth, and eyes to kill bacteria, counteract swelling, and strengthen the tissues against reinfection. Her Chinese sister, Coptis, is a very important medicine.

    Red Maple Flowers
    Look up and enjoy the fascinating flowers of the deciduous trees. If you see a haze of red, you have found a red maple. Their sap is not sweet enough to be used for sugaring, but their flowers are perfectly edible. We add them to store-bought greens for a rush of wild. In Oregon, I was served them battered and fried. Tempura anything is good, and tempura red maple flowers is divine. The early tree flowers provide an important first food for the bees, who are just coming out to fly and are very (very!) hungry.

    Globe flower (Trollius laxus)
    A beautiful spring shout of buttercup yellow! I wish you could see her en mass, covering a huge swath of ground, from the trash-littered road side up to the edge of the lawn, and thence almost into the forest. She is gold spilled upon the drab leaves of the forest floor and shining through the debris that emerges as winter’s snow melts away. She is probably, like her buttercup sisters, poisonous, but I should like to sit with her a spell and see what she has to say.

  • Thursday, April 04, 2013 3:43 PM | Anonymous
    Green greetings to you all. Time to spring up in colors! Time to inhale the green.

    Look up! Look up. The trees are blooming. Check them out. Not just the showy ones, like cherries and crabapples, beautiful as they are. Take the time to notice the flowers of the hardwood trees around you. One of the prettiest of the wild, flowering spring trees is the red maple. We are so happy to catch the fine photo of her on the next page.  

    It is still great sugaring weather, with nights below freezing and days warm and sunny, so maples are on our minds. They, like everything else, are responding to the lengthening days. Way back in the beginning of February, on Ground Hog Day or the Day of the Feast of Flames, we noticed the buds that are now flowers slowly beginning to stir, to feel the sap rising.

    After you look up, look down. All the lily family plants – crocus, tulip, daffodil, wild onions, iris, snowdrops – with petals in threes – are spearing through the leaves of last autumn and spreading colorful cheer. Here’s some from my garden.

    And here’s a little picture gallery with two other plants that caught my eye this week: (in addition to the maple flowers). First, the medicinal, evergreen, goldthread. And then a stunning yellow flower in the buttercup family. Not only are the individual flowers stunning, the group of them covers nearly a quarter of an acre and that is quite the sight. Like all buttercups, it is shiny, and so pretty in the spring light.

    I am just finishing up my quarterly article for Plant Healer Magazine on the Medicine Wheel of Plant Uses. And welcoming the first of the year’s apprentices, as well as the first of this year’s nettle. (There is a connection.)

    Look up! Look down! Green blessings are everywhere.

  • Thursday, March 28, 2013 3:29 PM | Anonymous
    Cedar Weed Walk

    Cedars and junipers are everywhere. They grow on rocky river banks. They grow in boggy swampy swales. They grow way out in the woods where no one ever goes, silent and alone. They grow right next to your house, or your apartment building, lending a healing aura and a refreshing fragrance. You’ll find them landscaped in industrial parks.

    You’ll find them thwarting window access at the library. You’ll find them in the midst of things; you’ll find them at the abandoned homestead. You’ll find them in Japan, in Europe, in the West Indies, and in every ecosystem in North America. You’ll find them in the desert Southwest, in the forests of the Pacific Northwest, in deciduous forests of the East, along coastal areas of the Great Lakes, in Southern swamps, in the Arctic north, and even in the prairies of the Heartland. Cedar and juniper are everywhere.

    I’m going on a long walk to visit cedar grandmother. Want to come? Along the way, we can visit some of her sisters and cousins and share some cedar stories and songs.

    Look up. Did you realize we were already sitting under a cedar tree? This is a northern red cedar. Possibly planted here a century ago, possibly a wilding that was cherished and kept when the house was built. Yes, she is very tall, but not so tall as her sisters, the western red cedars, which can tower up to 150 feet/50 meters.

    Come closer and feel her bark. Shut your eyes and run your hands up and down the trunk. Slowly, with care. Then move your hands softly from side to side. We will do this again at the end of our walk when we visit with grandmother cedar.

    I won’t ask you to feel the needles with your eyes shut, as you might get stuck by a sharp point. Open your eyes and stand up. What do you notice? That the branches droop down? That the air is scented with cedar? That there are two kinds of leaves on this cedar? That the leaves are fernlike? That they are held parallel to the ground in flat, spreading sprays? That there are both green berries and purple berries? Good, then you will always be able to identify a cedar.

    Only cedars have both fat, flat, thick needles and slender, sharp, awl-like needles. If you can’t see the pointed ones, I guarantee you can feel them. Ouch! The flat needles are segmented or scaled, like a dragon, but so minutely that it is hard to see without a hand lens. Here, use mine. The leafy portion of cedars and junipers is the part most often used: as smudge, as infused oil, as tea, and even tinctured.
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