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  • Tuesday, November 26, 2019 8:00 PM | Wise Woman (Administrator)

     Ritual Interlude: Crone’s Ceremony of Commitment to Her Community
    by Susun Weed

    Excerpt from New Menopausal Years the Wise Woman Way, Alternative Approaches to Menopause for Women 30-90 by Susun S. Weed




    As the menopausal years draw to a close and you find yourself more stable in your new self, feeling more like your “old self” as you become your older self, it is time to manifest the last stage of initiation: rebirth.

    You've spent time in some form of isolation as you journeyed the unpredictable years of menopause. You have given death to your images of yourself as Maiden, as Mother. You have crowned yourself, or been crowned as, Crone. Your metamorphosis is complete. Now comes the time to return to your community. To assume your new roles.

    You return as Crone. You hold your wise blood inside. You have learned how to spiral the updrafts of hot flashes. You have learned detachment in the midst of emotional hurricanes.

    You have submitted yourself to chaos and have witnessed the most ancient of all mysteries. How can you share this with your community?

    In the days of the matriarchy, and in some matrifocal cultures yet, a woman who has completed her menopausal metamorphosis initiates young men into the ways of love play most pleasing to women.

    She is honored as the teller of truth and the keeper of peace. She is the one the tradition keeper and the people's link to the spirit world.

    Today, there are no givens. We are each free to choose our own role as Crone. A ritual of commitment helps others know what your new roles will be.

    Here is one example to guide you.

    For this ritual, gather an audience of friends, family, and significant others, the more the better. You could compare it, at least in mood, to a wedding or a christening. Wait until at least thirteen moons after your Crone's Crowning ceremony before doing this ritual.

    Let there be music and sweet scents as you gather. At the appointed time, call everyone together to join hands. You alone remain outside the circle.

    When the circle is complete, begin a hum, vibrating from the feet. Let it move and spiral until the group energy feels whole. With the hum of the group supporting you, ask nourishment, breath, and inspiration, the powers of the east, to be present. Ask heat, protection, and excitement, the powers of the south, to be present. Ask emotion, fluidity, and compassion, the powers of the west, to be present. Ask stillness, patience, and wisdom, the powers of the north, to be present. Ask the above and the below to be present. Ask the inner core of each person to be present.

    Ask the circle to open and include you, symbolizing your return to community life. In your own words affirm: “I stand before you as self-initiated Crone, woman of wholeness. Though I have lived for many years, I expect to live for many more. Today, and for the rest of my life, I ask you to accept and honor me as Crone. And I wish to commit to you, my community and family, my intention as Crone to. . . “

    (Speak your intent.)

    The oldest woman present gives you a ball of yarn; she holds the end. You move around the circle, unwinding a long continuous thread into everyone's outstretched hands. When you're done, ask everyone to stretch the yarn taut between their hands, close their eyes and think of something they would like to end.

    After a minute of silence, begin to move to your right around the circle, cutting the yarn between their hands and saying, in your own words: “I am She-Who-Holds-Her-Wise-Blood-Inside. I have crowned myself Crone and accepted the responsibility of giving death. I cut the thread. I set it free.” When you finish, invite each person to keep the yarn or to place it in a special basket, to be left outdoors as a give-away.

    To close, hum as before, asking the entire circle to join you. Thank the energies and attributes of the seven directions (inside, below, above, north, west, south, and east). Then, let there be feasting and dancing, music and pleasure, flowers and feathers, spring water and herbal wine, lit candles and lovely clothing. You have completed your menopausal years. You are truly Crone, woman of wholeness.

    This ceremony marks the beginning, of your new identity as Crone. Most older women I spoke with felt they didn't fully settle into their new self image until the age of 60, or after their second Saturn return.

  • Monday, November 25, 2019 8:00 PM | Wise Woman (Administrator)

    Weight Gain
    by Susun Weed




    "Pack your bags for the journey," Grandmother Growth advises softly. "Your Change may be rough in places, so cushion yourself. Your Change may have some hard edges, so let your contours round. Your wise blood is stirring and you are learning to let it move without attaching fear to its meanderings. In the same way, you can gracefully allow your natural weight gain. Struggling with your weight or dieting is bad medicine for you now, resulting only in thin bones that break easily, extreme hormone shifts that will keep you from sleeping and thinking, and an inner fire reduced to ashes or burning out of control. Pack your bags, slowly, dear one. There is no rush," sighs Grandmother Growth, closing her eyes and sinking into a nap.

    The best ally you can have on your menopausal journey is ten "extra" pounds. I know you don't want to hear this. I understand how difficult it is to desire ten extra pounds (or accept it happening to you, as it does to most menopausal women). You may have spent much of your life trying to get rid of ten extra pounds. The ultimate failure as a woman nowadays is not to be infertile, but to gain weight.

    When thin and young is the standard of beauty, any menopausal woman might find it difficult to maintain a positive self image as she sees herself becoming a thick-waisted, silver-haired Crone.

    I had some killer hot flashes, but the most difficult part of menopause for me was gaining weight. I knew it was going to happen; I knew it was supposed to happen. But I never thought it would happen. I read the studies; I knew that most healthy women, thin or thick or in between, gained ten to fifteen pounds during their menopausal years. But not me, I thought. I eat superbly. I exercise: an hour and a half of yoga every week, tai chi, and my ordinary farm chores (moving and splitting firewood, throwing bales of hay, hauling water, chasing goats). Not me.

    Yes, me. I watched my image in the mirror take on a shape more and more closely approximating the Venus figurines of pre-history. And my modern prejudices surged to the fore: "Yuck. You look disgusting. You're overweight. It isn't healthy. Lose weight!" I knew it wasn't true. But despite years of feminism and consciousness-raising on every -ism, from ageism to weightism, there was my culture yelling at me in my own mind every time I looked in the mirror.

    Now I looked like my aunts. Now I looked like a woman. It was as strange and unfamiliar as the sprouting of my breasts and pubic hair at puberty. I remember standing in my clothes closet at the age of thirteen, wistfully and resentfully removing my favorite little-girl dresses, none of which fit.

    Not looking in the mirror didn't help. (I didn't have to resist looking at the scale. I don't own one.) My clothes didn't fit. First it was my blouses: my buttons gaping and my t-shirts straining. Then it was my pants: Tight waistbands became absolutely impossible. My size fluctuated widely from morning to night, growing bigger as the day went on. For several months, I walked around the house with my pants unfastened from dinner until bedtime, a menopausal symptom my sweetheart was completely in favor of.

    Fortunately, I knew that dieting would not improve my health, and could easily harm me. But without the loving acceptance I felt from my lover, I might have faltered and given in to the desire to resist this change with all my might. I might have given up on being proud to look like a postmenopausal woman: like Margaret Mead, Eleanor Roosevelt, Susan B. Anthony.

    I wish for every menopausal woman someone to tell her each evening when she disrobes, how goddess-like, how voluptuous, how attractive and desirable she is, and to say with her: "The best ally I can have on my menopausal journey is ten extra pounds"
    Of course, I don't mean ten pounds of ordinary fat. You want ten pounds of healthy fat supported by healthy muscle and bone And you want to gain that weight very, very slowly. Ideally about a pound or two a year during menopause. Remember, you are cushioning yourself for the journey. Love yourself as you get "in shape" for Change.


    Step 1. Collect information . . .
    o Fat cells convert androstenedione, a substance produced by the adrenals and the ovaries, into estrone, the primary postmenopausal estrogen. Women who gain weight during menopause have less severe hot flashes, an easier Change, and denser bones, according to menopause advocate, and long-time editor of A Friend Indeed, the Newsletter of Menopause, Jeanine O'Leary Cobb.
    o Despite pronouncements that extra fat is a health risk, weight gained during the menopausal years is not associated with any increase in mortality risk.1
    o And losing it will not improve your health.2,3
    o In fact, weight loss can lead to thyroid malfunction, severe gall bladder problems, increased insulin-resistance, and weakening of the cardiovascular and immune systems.4
    o If you don't have a sweetie to tell you your bigger body is bodacious, read:
    + Radiance: The Magazine for Large Women; POBox 30246, Oakland, CA 94604.
    + Healthy Weight Journal; PO Box 620, LCD1, Hamilton, ON; L8N 3K7, Canada. 1-800-568-7281.

    Step 2. Engage the energy . . .
    "The first time I saw pictures of my postmenopausal self I was frightened by my size!"
    o Give yourself permission to take up more space. Allow your needs to be uppermost. Enlarge your view of yourself. Enlarge your world.
    o If you don't already do an hour or more of yoga, tai chi, or some other meditative physical exercise weekly, begin . . . now.
    o Go to an art gallery, or get a book from your library, and find a picture of an attractive woman with a round proud belly. Meditate with her. Become her for a moment. Feel the energy in your belly. Feel the wise blood stirring within your belly. Stirring and simmering and sending its heat up along the energy pathways of your body. Be proud of yourself and your belly.
    o Say a short prayer of thanksgiving, or sing a song, or light a candle, or observe a moment of silence before you eat. Affirm that the food will bring you health and pleasure.

    Step 3. Nourish and tonify . . .
    o Give up dieting. Eat the widest variety of whole foods possible. Don't make any foods absolutely forbidden. What you eat everyday has the most effect. The best way to stop worrying about weight gain is to eat ten or more servings of fruit and vegetables, three or more servings of whole grains, and a cup of yogurt daily.
    o To insure that you add hormonally-helpful, bone-strengthening, empowering fat, include one serving of a high calorie phytoestrogen-rich food and three servings of super mineral-rich foods in your daily diet.
    + High-calorie hormone-rich foods include olives, olive oil, organic butter, freshly ground flax seeds, homemade beer, alcohol-free beer, fresh peanut butter.
    + Super mineral-rich foods include nourishing herbal infusions of nettle, oatstraw, red clover, or comfrey leaf; cooked greens such as kale, collards, lamb's quarter, amaranth, mustard; seaweeds; whey; whole grains including oats, millet, wheat, and brown rice; bittersweet chocolate.
    o Beer is traditionally brewed from hops and sprouted whole grains. The fermentation creates easily assimilated B vitamins and liberates minerals. One beer a week will slowly increase your weight, improve your memory, soothe your nerves, and improve your immune system. A cup of hops tea with a spoonful of barley-malt sweetener is an alcohol-free alternative.

    Step 4. Stimulate/Sedate . . .
    o Most herbal remedies sold for weight loss include stimulants which can disturb heart function, and diuretic and laxative herbs which can cause excessive fluid loss and disrupt electrolyte balance. This may lead to life-threatening events during the menopausal years, when heart and adrenal functions are unstable. Avoid all "weight-loss" herbs.
    o If you are determined to lose weight during your menopausal years, here are some safe strategies.
    + Eat a substantial breakfast and a large lunch and skimp on dinner. Absolutely avoid midnight snacks.
    + Eat a cup/250 ml of fresh chickweed daily or take a dropperful of the fresh plant tincture in some water during or after every meal (at least four times a day).
    + Gently simmer a handful of dried or fresh bladderwrack (fucus) seaweed for 15 minutes in enough water to cover. Strain. Drink a cup before each meal for no more than three months.
    + Eat a bowl of hot soup at the beginning of the meal. You will feel more sated and eat less. Cold soups and drinks do not have the same effect. .
    o Keep active. But you don't have to buy any spandex. Five-minute periods of exercise, done several times a day, every day, are better than one long session once a week. Weight lost as a result of increased physical activity is safer than weight lost through diet manipulation. Lift weights.
    o Depression can be associated with intense cravings for starchy foods. If we satisfy these cravings with mineral-rich foods (including chocolate), the depression will be "treated" and will dissipate. If we attempt to satisfy these cravings with mineral-deprived white flour and white sugar, the depression will deepen. (Also, see depression, pages XXXX.)

    Step 5b. Use drugs . . .
    o Appetite-suppressant drugs upset your metabolic rate and make it harder and harder for you to maintain a normal weight with a normal diet. Avoid all drugs and herbs and supplements of any kind that claim to suppress your appetite.

    Step 6. Break and enter . . .
    o Science is ready to help you deny your increasing wisdom and power by liposuctioning fat from your derrière and adding it to your face to plump out wrinkles. 

  • 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."


    ~ Read Part One ~


    ~ Read Part Two ~


  • 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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  • 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.

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