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  • Monday, November 18, 2019 7:52 PM | Wise Woman (Administrator)
    If You Decide to Have a Mammogram
    excerpt from Breast Cancer? Breast Health! the Wise Woman Way

    by Susun Weed



    Are there other ways to find early-stage breast cancers?


    In addition to physical examination and breast self-massage, thermography and ultrasound are safe tests available to women who wish to avoid mammograms.

    Thermography gives a picture of the heat patterns in the breasts (cancers are hotter than the surrounding tissues). Ultrasound bounces sound waves off the breast tissues to measure their density (cancer is denser than the surrounding tissues). Other techniques used to image breast tissues, such as digital mammography and rely on radioactivity and are inherently unsafe.

     
    If You Decide to Have a Mammogram


    •    Get the best, even if it means a long journey.


    •    Go where they specialize, preferably where they do at least 20 mammograms a day.


    •    Be sure the facility is accredited by the American College of Radiology.


    •    Insist on personnel who specialize in mammograms. (Taking and reading mammograms are skills that require intensive training and a lot of practice.)


    •    Ask how old the equipment is. Newer equipment exposes the breasts to less radiation. A dedicated unit (one specifically for mammograms) is best.


    •    Ask how they ensure quality control. When was their unit calibrated?


    •    Load your blood with carotenes for a week before the mammogram to prevent radiation damage to your DNA.


    •    Expect to be cold and uncomfortable during the mammogram, but do say something if you're being hurt.o The more compressed the breast tissue, the clearer the mammogram. (But pressure may spread cancer cells if they're present.)


    •    If your breasts are tender, reschedule. During your fertile years, schedule mammograms for 7-10 days after your menstrual flow begins.


    •    Don't wear antiperspirant containing aluminum; it can interfere with the imaging process. (Those clear stones do contain aluminum, as do most commercial antiperspirants.)


    •    If you want another opinion, you'll need the original mammographic films, not copies. (X-ray facilities only keep films for 7 years.)


    •    Get your doctor to agree, in writing, before the procedure, to give you a copy of your mammogram. The U.S. Public Health Service advises women to ask for written results from a mammogram.


    •    Given the high percentage of "false normal" mammograms, if you think you have cancer, trust your intuition.


    •    Remove radioactive isotopes from your body with burdock root, seaweed, or miso.


    Mammograms don't promote breast health. Breast self-massage, breast self-exam, and lifestyle changes do.

  • Monday, November 18, 2019 5:37 PM | Wise Woman (Administrator)


    Becoming a Herbalist
    Part Three
    by Susun S. Weed




    From Ohio to Texas to California to New York to the open road and back again to the Catskills, my path may have seemed meandering, but it was as purposeful as any river, carrying me closer and closer to the sea, though I little comprehended where I was headed.

    The Quonset hut on the side of a Catskill mountain was a safe refuge while my daughter's dad served time in Danbury Federal Correctional Institute for being a "menace to society." But within months I realized my savings would soon run out. I loved to draw, so I decided to get a job as an artist. I prepared my portfolio and began the arduous process of trying to sell myself to art directors in Manhattan, a two-hour bus ride away.

    Many were interested, but no one would hire me. Someone finally told me outright that he would never hire a single mom. What to do? There were no local jobs that would pay me enough to pay another women to watch my child while I worked and still leave me enough left over to pay the bills. (This was also the genesis of my feminism. Up until now, I had always thought I was one of the "guys.")

    I applied for Aid to Dependent Children. Though there were depressingly long waits, seeming ignorance of basic human needs, and all kinds of frustrations associated with getting approved (and staying approved) for "welfare," it was definitely the right choice for my daughter and I, allowing us to continue our adventures in fairyland: the magical realm we entered when we stepped outside and opened ourselves to the timeless abundance of Nature.

    Nature is incredibly rich and giving. But even with all that, living on welfare wasn't easy. There was never enough money. And my daughter seemed to need new shoes with alarming frequency. I was talking to a neighbor about my dilemma, when he made the outrageous suggestion that I teach at a local community college.

    "I can't do that!" I replied. "First, I'll be thrown off welfare if they even so much as suspect I'm working. Second, I don't have a license to teach. Third, I don't have any credentials, not even a high school diploma."

    He calmly explained that the adult education department allowed anyone to offer a course, required no credentials, and although I would get paid $25 per class, I wouldn't really be employed (no social security number needed) and he sincerely doubted that I would get "caught." It seemed absurd; it seemed liked a miracle. I rolled the idea over and over in my mind, until at last I could envision myself teaching a class. Yes! A class in whole wheat bread baking!

    I sent in my proposal. They published it. Students signed up. With nerves quivering, I began to teach. We made wholewheat bread. We made wholewheat rolls. We made wholewheat bagels. We made wholewheat croissants. We made wholewheat pretzels. We made wholewheat crackers. We made wholewheat chocolate chip cookies. We made: "The best bread you ever ate! You make it yourself, with love." And my daughter got new shoes.

    Everything was settling into place. And then I met the woman who was to change my life forever. You wouldn't have known it to look at her. And who could have missed seeing her -- a women who appeared to be ten months pregnant, standing beside the road with a babe in arms and three huge bags of laundry, hitching a ride? I not only took her to town, I waited while she did the laundry and brought her home. She lived on the other side of the mountain from me. And she was wildly interested in herbal medicine.

    Our friendship took root in the fertile soil of our motherhood, our love of plants, and our respect for the Mother. Soon there was a trail over the mountain, connecting our houses by a far shorter route than the five mile drive around the mountain. Every plant, every rivulet, every fern, every rock, every mushroom along the mile and a half of that trail was soon as familiar to me as the inside of my eyes.

    As they grew, our girls visited each other by means of the trail. Often they found special treats for dinner. One guest, incredulous, as I began to cook the mushrooms handed to me by my six-year-old daughter, gasped: "You're going to eat wild mushrooms picked by a child?!" "Before I would eat any you picked," I retorted. "She's been doing this since she could walk. And she's closer to the ground than adults," I added with a smile, "so she can identify them better."

    And it was true. There was rarely a day that we didn't spend time together practicing our skills in identifying and eating the wild abundance around us -- even if it was only a salad of weeds from the garden. One day, out in the woods, my friend complained to me that her husband didn't seem to understand how difficult it was to be home alone all day with two small children. "If he comes home from work one more time and criticizes me for a messy house and a late dinner, I might kill him," she confided.

    "Don't even think of that," I counseled her. "What you need is a night off once a week. Let him deal with the kids alone for even a few hours and I bet he'll change his tune."

    "But he would never agree to that," she sighed.

    "What if you were working?" I asked. "You could teach a course at the local community college!"

    "But I don't have a license. I don't have degrees! I can't teach!" she protested as I laughingly explained to her that those were not valid objections. And so she decided, after a few weeks thought, that she would do it. She would teach a class in herbal medicine.

    "And that means we have to study really hard," she told me. "Every day between now [May] and when college starts in September." That's what we did. Everyday. We redoubled our efforts to identify and learn about the plants around us. Every day. With our daughters in tow, or on our own, everyday. Everyday. Rain or heat or mist, we roamed the mountains, the fields, the streamsides, the vacant lots, the meadows, with our field guides in hand. And we brought the bounty back to our kitchens, where we cooked and compounded and decocted and infused and tried our hands at every preparation listed in the books.

    Friends stopped coming to dinner after one especially wild soup spilled on the floor and removed a stain that had been there for years. But we were undaunted and indefatigable, avid and eager. And the class was a great success. On every level. For indeed, her husband did change his tune after spending the evening alone with his two rambunctious young daughters: to one of respect. In fact, the family got so tight, they decided to build a camper on their pickup and go off for a month of summertime fun.

    "I'm looking for paradise!" my friend yelled as she waved goodbye.

    "I found paradise!" she said on the other end of the phone, a month later. "And we're not coming back."

    "But what about your class?" I pleaded, thinking that guilt might be more effective than friendship in luring her home.

    "My class?" Her voice sounded far away. "Oh, my herbal medicine class! Well, you'll just have to teach it."


  • Wednesday, November 06, 2019 1:35 PM | Wise Woman (Administrator)

    HERBALISM
    by Susun S. Weed


     



    Herbalism, the use of plants for health and healing, is as old as humanity, if not older. In hunting/gathering societies, women are naturally the herbalists. This connection between women and herbs continues today. At the turn of the Century, herbalism in America is undergoing a renaissance. Throughout most of the rest of the world, especially in countries where women's wisdom has traditionally been honored, herbalism remains, as ever, the treatment of choice for many acute and most chronic health problems. Herbal medicine is a complex and daunting study; yet it is the medicine of the people and so simple that children safely apply it.

            THE WISE WOMAN TRADITION
    The earliest known herbalism is the Wise Woman Way: the way of our foremothers out of Africa, our ancient female ancestors. Herbalism is still used and respected in many places, especially the Orient, the mid-East, and India.


    Wise women view herbs as spiritual allies and intrinsically important foodstuffs as well as medicines. Psychoactive plants are both teachers and healers, and are used, under the guidance of the herbalist/shaman, by all members of the community. Compassion, connection, community, and honor for the Earth characterize Wise Woman herbalism. The nourishing herbal infusions, mineral-rich vinegars, and edible herbs favored by wise women are generally considered safe, even in quantity, for all women, including those pregnant and lactating.

    Favorite herbs include nourishing tonics such as nettle, red clover, oatstraw, comfrey leaf, linden, dandelion, seaweed, and burdock.

            THE HEROIC TRADITION
    In Europe, and then in the Americas, the Inquisition targeted Wise Woman herbalists/midwives and (often through torture and murder) replaced them with male Heroes, who used herbs to drive out the devils of illness from the hated body. Herbs that caused catharsis and purging were elevated, as was blood-letting.

    The Heroic tradition, despising all things female, licensed only men as healers. Anyone who practiced without a license (women) was persecuted. Some escaped to the Americas, learned Native American herbal medicine, and served their communities - only to be vilified and replaced by school-trained male physicians from England several generations later. The Heroic tradition is still popular in Europe and in Latin and Black communities throughout the Americas. Domination, mentation, isolation, and distrust of the Earth (who is female and therefore considered sinful and dirty) characterize Heroic medicine.

    Favorite herbs include powerful stimulants and sedatives such as cayenne, lobelia, valerian, ephedra, golden seal, cascara sagrada, turkey rhubarb, and aloes. Most Heroic herbs are dangerous to women, especially if pregnant or lactating.


            THE SCIENTIFIC TRADITION
    Where the practice of medicine becomes dominated by linear, either/or thinking, the Scientific tradition replaces the Heroic. Women and their connection to herbs are again vilified, as quacks, rather than as witches. The quest for powerful drugs brings plants to the laboratory, where active ingredients are extracted, concentrated, isolated, standardized, sanitized, and ultimately synthesized. Plants are raw materials, crude, inexact, and unpredictable.

     Approximately 85 percent of the hundreds of thousands of drugs currently used are directly or indirectly derived from plants; eg foxglove (digitalis compounds), Pacific yew (cancer drug), wild yam (cortisone, birth control pills), and chinchona (quinine). Drugs and drug-like herbs cause severe side effects and should not be self-administered by pregnant and lactating women.




            EXPLORING HERBAL MEDICINE: RESOURCES

    • Achterberg, Jeanne. Woman As Healer: A panoramic survey of the healing activities of women from prehistoric times to the present. Shambala (Boston), 1990.
    • Benedetti, Maria Dolores. Earth and Spirit: Medicinal Plants and Healing Lore from Puerto Rico. Verde Luz (Orocovis, Puerto Rico), 1998.
    • Bennett, Jennifer. Lilies of the Hearth: The Historical Relationship Between Women & Plants. Firefly (Willowdale, Ontario, Canada), 1991.
    • Brooke, Elisabeth. Medicine Women: A Pictorial History of Women Healers. Quest Books (Wheaton, Illinois & Madras, India), 1997.
    • Women Healers: Portraits of Herbalists, Physicians, and Midwives. Healing Arts Press (Rochester, Vermont), 1995.
    • Chamberlain, Mary. Old Wives Tales: Their History, Remedies and Spells. Virago (London), 1981
    • Christopher, Dr. John R. School of Natural Healing: The Reference Volume on Heroic Herbal Therapy for the Teacher, Student, or Practitioner. Christopher Publications, 1976.
    • Griggs, Barbara. Green Pharmacy: The History and Evolution of Western Medicine. Healing Arts Press (Rochester, Vermont), 1997.
    • McClain, Carol Shepherd. Women As Healers: Cross Cultural Perspectives. Rutgers University Press (New Brunswick and London), 1989.
    • Vogel, Virgil J. American Indian Medicine. University of Oklahoma Press (Norman & London), 1970.
    • Weed, Susun S. Healing Wise: The Second Wise Woman Herbal. Ash Tree Publishing (Woodstock, New York), 1989.
    • Wichtl, Max (edited and translated from the German by Norman Grainger Bisset). Herbal Drugs and Phytopharmaceuticals: A handbook for practice on a scientific basis. Medpharm Verlag (Stuttgart) & CRC Press (Boca Raton, Ann Arbor, London, Tokyo), 1994


            Note: These resources are but a fraction of what is available. My emphasis is on the history of herbalism and the Wise Woman tradition, but I have included one Heroic (Christopher) and one Scientific (Wichtl) reference.


    **********************************


    Abundantly Well: Seven Medicines. The Complementary Integrated Medicine Revolution.

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    The eagerly awaited sixth book in the best-selling Wise Woman Herbal Series fully integrates modern medicine with a wide range of scientifically proven alternatives.

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  • Wednesday, October 23, 2019 1:50 PM | Wise Woman (Administrator)




    Burdock seed (Arctium lappa)



    Those stick-in-your-hair-and-on-your-dog-and-on-your-sweater-too burdock burrs hold a wealth of seeds revered for their medicinal powers. Many plants have seeds that are easier to harvest than their roots, but burdock is not one of them.


    Digging first year roots (not yet) is hard work, but getting at the seeds is stickery prickery work.


    For details on exactly how to handle the seed heads and how to make Burdock Seed Scalp Tonic, please check out the burdock section in Healing Wise.

  • Wednesday, October 23, 2019 1:29 PM | Wise Woman (Administrator)








    Apple time. Cider. Sauce. Yummy.



  • Tuesday, October 22, 2019 7:00 PM | Wise Woman (Administrator)

    Fibromyalgia
    by Susun Weed



    ~ Part Two ~


    "Dear woman," Grandmother Growth's voice seems to float in the deepening twilight, echoing, reverberating, ringing in your ears. "Bring me your soreness. Bring me your pain. Bring your aches to me. Bring your burdens. Bring all you can no longer stand, can no longer bear, can no longer carry, can no longer shoulder, can no longer be responsible for. Give it to me. Put it down. Let us sit in council together and listen to the stories your pain tells. Menopause is a journey which requires you to pack light. Heavy things--bitterness, regret, vengeance, clinging to pain--will make your travels wearisome and bring you down. Take only the stories. Leave the rest behind. Burn the soreness in your hot flashes. Let it leave you. This is the Change. Let it change you, dear woman; let it change you."



    Step 3:       Nourish and Tonify

    • Consistent use of nourishing herbal infusions, especially comfrey leaf and stinging nettle, in place of coffee, tea, and sodas is the single most effective thing I know for mitigating and overcoming fibromyalgia.

    • Gentle exercise--walks, yoga or tai chi practices--keeps muscles from weakening and becoming more painful. Experts suggest starting with as little as three minutes a day, and gradually building to at least four sessions of five minutes each per day. Persist; the reward is worth it.

    • Regular consumption of yogurt also proves very helpful for those with fibromyalgia. Perhaps it is due to yogurt's ability to strengthen and nourish immunity; some suspect fibromyalgia is a result of immune system malfunction.

    • Magnesium is a critical nutrient for preventing pain in muscles and connective tissues. Legumes, whole grains, leafy greens and nourishing herbal infusions--like nettle and oatstraw--are the best sources.

    • Moxibustion is also known as needleless acupuncture. Safe and easy to do at home by yourself, moxibustion gives fast relief from sore joints and aching muscles. It not only relieves pain but tonifies, decreasing future pain and gradually affecting a "cure." You can buy a moxa "cigar" at an Oriental pharmacy or health food store. Bring the glowing end of the moxa (after lighting it) near the painful area and move it around in small slow spirals until the heat becomes too intense. (This may take a few minutes or many.) Pain relief is usually immediate and often lasts for twelve or more hours.

     

    Step 4:       Stimulate/Sedate

    Tinctures of willow bark or spirea (1-2 dropperfuls/1-2 ml is a dose) are highly recommended as important green allies by women dealing with fibromyalgia.


    St. Joan's wort tincture--not capsules, not the tea--is a powerful ally for women with fibromyalgia. It is one of the best muscle relaxants I have ever used. A 25-30 drop dose not only stops but also prevents muscle aches. I have used it as frequently as every twenty minutes (for ten doses) when the occasion has necessitated it. St. Joan's wort prevents soreness when taken after exercise; and even better if taken before. I take a dose every hour while on an airplane to prevent muscle aches and jetlag.


    Regular massage from an experienced therapist stimulates the circulation of blood and energy, relieves pain, reduces fatigue, and eases stiffness. Avoid deep tissue massage; it increases pain. Light strokes and gentle myofascial releases are more helpful. Chiropractic manipulations are of little benefit.


    Massage with heated stones and other heat treatments works wonders for some women. For others, cold treatments work better (but not too cold, and not for too long either, please).


    Ginger compresses, hot or cold, stir up circulation and mobilize the body's own healing agents to take action and ease your pain. I grate several ounces of fresh ginger into simmering water, cook it gently for ten minutes, then soak a cloth in the liquid and use that as an application to the sore area.


    The National Institute of Health lists fibromyalgia as one of the few conditions that acupuncture can relieve.


    If lying down while sleeping makes the pain worse, slip into something relaxing: valerian, skullcap, or St. Joan's wort tinctures, up to a dropperful/1 ml of any one, repeated twice if needed.

     

    Step 5a:     Use Supplements

    • A study found little benefit from those with fibromyalgia taking either SAM-e or 5-HTP (5-hydroxytryptophan--a precursor to serotonin). Do not use 5-HTP if you are taking St. Joan's/John's wort.
    • Lack of sleep can quickly aggravate symptoms of fibromyalgia. (See Step 0.) If sleep confounds you, melatonin at bedtime, the lowest dose you can get, may help.

     

    Step 5b:     Use Drugs

    • Essential oil of lavender was recommended by several women who have dealt with fibromyalgia for many years. Dilute with jojoba or olive oil and use as a rub.

    • Orthodox treatment of fibromyalgia relies heavily on drugs, primarily antispasmodics, antidepressants and muscle-relaxants. But Celebrex, Vioxx, Valteran, amitriptyline (Elavil), fluoxetine (Prozac), vanlafaxine (Effecor), trazadone (Desyrel), alprazolam (Xanax), and cyclobenzaprine (Flexeril) can adversely affect the liver and disrupt the immune system.

    • Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs such as ibuprofen do not reduce fibromyalgia pain for most women.

    • Tramadol (Ultram) is a drug which addresses both the altered brain chemicals and the pain signals of those with fibromyalgia.

     

    Step 6:       Break and Enter

    • Beware invasive diagnostic tests. Many women report enduring endless rounds of tests trying to put a name to their pains with no success and at the price of physical, mental, and emotional distress.

    • Injections of lidocaine, a drug that temporarily numbs nerves, are effective in relieving fibromyalgia pain for some women. Injections of capsaicin (from cayenne) relieve pain by destroying nerve endings.

    An excerpt from New Menopausal Years, the Wise Woman Way, Alternative Approaches for Women 30-90 by Susun Weed. 

    Available at www.wisewomanbookshop.com

  • Tuesday, October 22, 2019 5:33 PM | Wise Woman (Administrator)

    Becoming a Herbalist
    Part Two
    by Susun S. Weed




    What a relief to leave behind the bustle of New York City and settle into the rhythms of Nature. In the city the parks were paved and nature was something we had to seek out and visit. Now my toddler daughter and I had a green lawn and an herb garden. We could spend as much time outdoors as we wanted. We were part of Nature and She was surely part of us.

    And what an outdoors we had to play in. We were surrounded by the Catskill State Forest: thousands of acres of hardwood forest, with mushrooms, mosses, ferns, waterfalls, birds, wildflowers and even wild orchids. It was truly a fairyland filled with delight for a young mother and daughter.

    After breakfast, my daughter and I would pack lunch and some guidebooks, and set out along the familiar trails into the heart of the forest. We wandered as we would, moving from mushroom to mushroom, flower to flower, stream to stream, rock to rock as the desire took us. And as the light grew dim in the evening, we made our way home, fording the creek that ran past our door, or perhaps staying out even later when the moon was full.

    At night, I would sketch and paint the magic I had found that day, putting names to the new plants and mushrooms, learning something new about the familiar ones. My interest in herbs was still just a flirtation, but they increasingly drew my attention as I sought to learn about the beautiful flowers, leaves, and berries that grew around me.

    As I moved into Nature's rhythm, following her seasons and cycles, She rewarded me with a special place to live. A mile from the nearest neighbor, at the end of a dead-end dirt road, lay the big barn and lovely house. The previous owners were organic gardeners, and the flower and vegetable beds astonished me with their perennial abundance and ever-changing beauty.

    Here my days were more intensely filled. Wanderings in the woods, yes, but not every day. There was the garden to tend and herbs to grow, my bread-baking business, the hour drive to take my daughter to her playgroup, maple syrup to boil down in the spring, tomatoes to can in the fall, blueberries to pick in the summer, and firewood to gather, cut, split, and stack for winter warmth.

    I might have lived there for decades, but for this: My beautiful home in the country was vandalized and I was held at gunpoint. No lasting harm was done, but I was severely traumatized. I was unable to sleep in my bedroom and cried uncontrollably anywhere in the house. Only outside did I feel easy.

    Perhaps I had a nervous breakdown, or suffered from post-traumatic shock; then, I had no name for my nameless fear. So, in a desperate attempt to create safe space for myself, we sold our beautiful farm, bought a Land Rover station wagon, and set out to explore the parks and wild places of North America.

    When your life is on the road, you pare down your possessions and what is important becomes clear: tools, food, cooking gear, purple shorts, and the guide books. Actually, the book shelf needed to be expanded several times that year, as I bought more and more books about wild plants, mushrooms and wild flowers.

    Cooking over a campfire night after night and camping far from supermarkets increased the pressure and the pleasure in finding wild foods to nourish myself and my family. Meanwhile, I was discovering that the herbs, wildflowers, and even the weeds that was coming to love, were considered by some to be medicinal.

    More than a year (and many high adventures later), we found ourselves in California, at a friend's house, where we were gathered up in a police dragnet. I spent a week in jail, fearful of the fate of my daughter, who I had left with the (nice-looking) older woman next door (on the pretext that she was the "grandmother"). We were safely reunited, but my husband was detained and eventually sentenced to four years in prison. The lawyer said he might be able to get him into Danbury, a minimum security federal prison, if l would move back east.

    Once again, the Catskills called. So I put myself and my four year old daughter into the Land Rover and, with my brand-new driver's license, drove from Santa Monica to Vancouver (where we had an apartment) and from there to Woodstock. I didn't have any idea that herbs could have helped me, but I knew that Nature was my refuge.

    I would drive all day, and, as night gathered, turn off the main road onto a smaller road, and from there onto a smaller road, and eventually into a dirt road into a forest, where I would cook a small dinner and sleep lulled by the sounds of the creatures large and small. One night I felt so much grief that I threw up; but the next morning incredible butterflies moved gracefully across the ground I had soiled the night before, and I understood that beauty is everywhere, hidden even in pain and loss and fear.

    Did I mention that the Land Rover was constantly breaking down? Of course, it was. Fortunately, I knew how to fix most things that went wrong with it. But the day I arrived in Woodstock, something BIG broke and I was out of wheels for a while. Thus I found myself hitching a ride to town and thus I found myself being charmed by Aaron van de B. Jr, a man, who, in his own words: "Been in these mountains so long I know what's under every rock. " *

    Within the hour my daughter and I had a place to live: a Quonset hut on Cross Patch Road, with a front yard full of hundred year-old ginseng plants, and an enormous cage to hold the occasional wild animal that Aaron had to tend to, being as he was the Forest Ranger.

    It was here that my path as an herbalist was clearly revealed to me, but, of course, I tried to ignore the message.

        * In the Catskills, what's under every rock is another one!



    Read Part One

  • Tuesday, October 15, 2019 5:38 PM | Wise Woman (Administrator)

    Weed Walk with Susun




    Thistle (Cirsium discolor)



    This is the common field thistle, but a species identification is not really needed when it comes to thistles, which are easy to recognize by their spiny leaves and fancy flowers. All thistles are used in much the same way. Milk thistle seed is the one we all turn to for liver help, but the entire tribe of thistles is always ready to provide food and medicine. A pair of scissors is helpful in cutting the spines off the leaves before eating them. The roots are often sweet and tasty baked.

  • Monday, October 14, 2019 6:23 PM | Wise Woman (Administrator)

    Fibromyalgia
    Part One
    by Susun Weed

     

     


    "Dear woman," Grandmother Growth's voice seems to float in the deepening twilight, echoing, reverberating, ringing in your ears. "Bring me your soreness. Bring me your pain. Bring your aches to me. Bring your burdens. Bring all you can no longer stand, can no longer bear, can no longer carry, can no longer shoulder, can no longer be responsible for. Give it to me. Put it down. Let us sit in council together and listen to the stories your pain tells. Menopause is a journey which requires you to pack light. Heavy things--bitterness, regret, vengeance, clinging to pain--will make your travels wearisome and bring you down. Take only the stories. Leave the rest behind. Burn the soreness in your hot flashes. Let it leave you. This is the Change. Let it change you, dear woman; let it change you."

     

     

    Step 0:       Do Nothing

     Women dealing with fibromyalgia have less pain if they sleep in a completely dark room. If that's impossible, wear a sleep mask.

     

    Step 1:       Collect Information

    The chronic pain disorder I called "sore all over" when I wrote this section ten years ago is now big news. Ninety percent of the four million Americans dealing with this debilitating, frustrating condition--known as fibromyalgia--are white women, and many of them are menopausal.

     

    Neither cause nor cure for fibromyalgia is known. It is not a disease but a range of symptoms characterized by chronic, widespread pain on both sides of the body, above and below the waist. (As one of my apprentices put it: "But I don't hurt in all those places at once. The pain moves around. I never know where it will be next.")

     

    Some women have a low fever in addition to pain. More than half of those with fibromyalgia also suffer from headaches, endometriosis, and/or irritable bowel syndrome.

     

    The symptoms of fibromyalgia are quite variable, making diagnosis difficult. (Orthodox diagnosis is predicated on finding soreness at specific trigger points.) Fibromyalgia mimics aspects of multiple sclerosis, Parkinson's disease, arthritis, hepatitis C, hypothyroidism, lupus, polymyalgia rheumatica, and early dementia. Many women with fibromyalgia are told their distress is "all in your mind."

     

    It isn't in your mind (alone). Menopause can leave you feeling like you've been beaten on. Muscles respond to hormonal changes by feeling sore and cranky. Sleep loss can make you ache. (Non-restorative sleep is a hallmark of fibromyalgia.) Lack of calcium (and other minerals) can make your bones ache. Whether you are dealing with these challenges, or the greater problem of fibromyalgia, why not give Wise Woman Ways a try? The remedies listed here have been remarkably successful in helping many women.

     

    "People with fibromyalgia aren't just sensitive to pain; they also find loud noises, strong odors, and bright lights aversive."--Daniel Clauw, MD, Director: Chronic Pain and Fatigue Research Center, Georgetown University

     

    Step 2:       Engage the Energy

    • Having a support group is one of the strongest factors in keeping fibromyalgia under control.
    • Homeopathic Arnica is an amazing remedy for sore and aching muscles. Daily use of homeopathic Rhus toxicodendron reduced pain by twenty-five percent in those with fibromyalgia.
    • Make a list of things you are sore (upset, angry) about. Where do these things live in your body? With the help of an experienced bodyworker, loosen those places. Women with fibromyalgia are very likely to be survivors of trauma (sexual or domestic violence, alcoholism).
    • Go back to your Mother. Float in the ocean. Lie belly down on the earth. Naked. Let her ease you. Let her heal you.
    • Listen to a relaxation tape. Have someone show you how to do the yoga position called the "Corpse Pose."  Learn how to bring yourself to a deep state of inner quiet and peaceful mind.
    • Hypnotherapy can help you gain some degree of mental control over symptoms. Cognitive behavior therapy is also helpful.
  • Monday, October 14, 2019 5:45 PM | Wise Woman (Administrator)

    Becoming a Herbalist

     by Susun S. Weed

        

        ~ Part One ~



     

    I didn't grow up wanting to be an herbalist. As a child I lived a few short blocks from the Dallas City Zoo. At night, as the stars came out and I laid in my bed waiting for sleep, the trumpeting of the elephants and the roar of the lions and the hoots of the monkeys were my lullaby. And my dreams were filled with spirits, urgings, feelings.


    Between my house and the zoo was a small woods. This forgotten five acres was as good as five million acres to my child self. Whenever the world made me mad or sad, I would pack a lunch and "run away" to the woods. There I would sit by the little creek or hide in the cave carved by the water in the chalk cliff. Perhaps the Nature Spirits called me there. I only knew I found solace in nature when people disappointed me.


    Actually, I planned to be a mathematician. Even majored in math at UCLA. But a funny thing: Nature seemed to be following me. Right across the street from the sorority house where I lived was a five-acre woods. Despite (or because of) the fact that we were warned not to venture into the woods, we did. It was the shortest way to campus. Every morning I would set out briskly for my classes, only to find myself enchanted by the changes I saw around me in the woods.


    At nineteen, despite taking birth control pills, I was informed that I was five months pregnant. Wow. That was not on my list of things to do in life. I became something of a curiosity at the UCLA Medical Center where I went for pre-natal checkups. No one knew how the baby would be affected by the hormones I had fed her unkowningly for five months, and this was before the routine use of ultrasound, so there was no way to know. When all the interns showed up to peer between my legs, I didn't like it.


    So my husband and I moved. To New York City. I was seven months pregnant. And I had no intention of taking any drugs. But, like most pregnant women, I had my share of minor complaints. What to do? I went to the library, the one with the lions, and asked the librarian for books on herbs. (Why? I can't tell you. The words just came out of my mouth and I followed them where they led.) She brought me all four of them! (This was 1965.) And I took them home. But what they told me to do was to put basil in my tomato sauce and dill in with my sliced cucumbers. Good advice, but not what I wanted. I wanted a natural childbirth, a bonded relationship with a nursing baby, and no drugs anywhere along that way.


    Fortunately, I am generally healthy and strong, so I was able to have what I wanted, although without the use of any herbs, and without the support of the doctors and nurse in attendance. They actually gave my baby sugarwater before bringing her to me to nurse and closed the curtains around us when I put her to my breast "So as not to disturb the other women with your perversion!" Finally, in desperation, I checked us out of the maternity ward, against doctor's orders and went home to my fifth-floor walk-up on east ninth street.


    For ease, for peace, for joy, I took myself and my infant daughter to the Cloisters, a beautiful, quiet park and museum along the river. I needed nature more than ever as a young mother whose ideas about childcare were not "normal." One day an older women stopped me and scolded me for holding my baby. (This was before Snugglies and the general acceptance of the need for body contact between infant and mother. I just knew that my body wanted contact, so I ignored strollers and held my baby close.) "You are spoiling her!" she harangued me. "You must not touch your child any more than is necessary. Especially when she cries. My sons were never touched and they are both at West Point," she concluded with a satisfied smile. I clutched my daughter to my chest, smiled, and silently vowed to hold her for as long as possible.


    Though I was frightened in the city (a brick thrown through the window of my apartment fell to the floor an inch from my bed, I was hit several times by eggs thrown from roofs, and a gang of teenagers accosted me on the street, taunting me and lifting my skirt to expose my thighs and underwear), I had no idea of where to go. Nature did. And She finally got through to me with stories of a magical place upstate: the Catskills mountains.


    We visited, and true to the tale (those who spend a night in the shadow of Overlook are forever bound to the Catskills), we were enchanted. Within the month, we had rented a small cottage and began to stay there on weekends. For my daughter and I, the weekends lengthened, and lengthened, until we were upstate full time. And what a glorious time it was: frolicking in the woods looking for mushrooms, gathering wild strawberries so dense that our knees turned red, splashing in the swimming hole, and planting my first herb garden.


    Real basil. Real dill. And lots of weeds. I didn't know which of those little green sprouts were my herbs and which were the weeds. Thank goodness for Euell Gibbons, whose books on wild foods were coming into print. Soon I realized that the weeds were herbs too!


    And so began a fascination that I carry to this day: to know the plants around me and to know how to eat them and to use them for medicine. There were to be many more steps laid out for me on my path to becoming an herbalist. Steps I knew nothing of as a flower child. Steps that would forever change me and the way I viewed life.


    To be Continued...

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